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School Boundary Initiative

Boundary

Welcome to the Prince George’s County Public Schools Comprehensive School Boundary Initiative project page! The objective of the Boundary Initiative is to provide an impartial analysis of current school boundaries, feeder patterns and program locations and to develop, with community input, scenarios for adjustments in order to populate new and expanded school facilities and balance facility utilization throughout the County. Explore this page to learn more about the project’s objectives and timeline, familiarize yourself with key concepts and background, and keep track of important updates and announcements.

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What is the Comprehensive School Boundary Initiative?

The Comprehensive School Boundary Initiative will provide an impartial analysis of current school boundaries, feeder patterns and program locations and to develop, with community input, scenarios for adjustments in order to populate new and expanded school facilities and balance facility utilization throughout the County. The Boundary Initiative is being conducted by a consultant team led by WXY Studio, working in close partnership with PGCPS staff and the Boundary Advisory Committee. The Boundary Initiative process commenced in the Fall of 2020 and will conclude by December 2021. Potential boundary changes will be phased in beginning School Year 2022-23.

This initiative will:
  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of school boundaries, feeder patterns, and program locations
  • Develop three draft boundary scenarios with community and stakeholder input
  • Refine draft boundary scenarios with community and stakeholder input
  • Culminate in the CEO offering recommended boundary changes to the Prince George’s County Board of Education for their approval
Objectives:
  • Create boundaries for new and expanded schools
  • Balance enrollment among existing schools
  • Identify potential elementary school consolidations

Note: Only the 165 PGCPS neighborhood schools will be included in this initiative.  Specialty schools, regional schools, charter schools and special education centers will not be included in the boundary scenarios and options.

Why is this initiative important?

Past and future growth

PGCPS has grown rapidly since 2014 with enrollment increasing from 125,000 to 136,000 students. This growth is expected to continue with total enrollment reaching nearly 143,300 by 2024. For many years, PGCPS has seen challenges with balancing school enrollment across the County, with some schools operating under capacity, and others over-utilized with more students enrolled than available seats. The last time a district-wide study of school boundaries in PGCPS was conducted was in 2008.

New schools

The district has 12 planned capacity projects (including new school construction and additions to existing schools) that will add 9,000 new seats by school year 2026-27 to meet the demands of the growing student population.  New and expanded schools will require the redrawing of school boundaries for both the impacted school and neighboring schools. Six of the projects will be constructed through a ground-breaking public-private partnership that is part of the Blue Print for PGCPS.

School Consolidation

As the district plans new schools, it also has older school facilities that are past their building life span and still in use. The Boundary Initiative may identify older, under-utilized schools that are adjacent to newer, under-utilized schools. This circumstance may present the opportunity to transition students to newer school facilities while balancing enrollment.

Utilization challenges

The Educational Facilities Master Plan establishes an optimal school building utilization range of 80-95%. However, currently, fewer than 27% of elementary and K-8 schools, 33% of middle schools, and 19% of high schools fall within this range. Some schools in PGCPS are over-utilized—meaning enrollment exceeds capacity. Other schools are under-utilized—meaning there are fewer students than available seats. Both of these conditions present challenges to individual schools and students, and to the system as a whole. It is important to balance utilization across schools to ensure there is equity in class sizes, program capacity, and school funding.

COVID-19

COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of this boundary initiative. Prince George’s County has been the hardest-hit County in Maryland, with the highest number of cases per capita, and second highest number of deaths per capita as of September 2020. Like school districts across the country, PGCPS faces significant uncertainty related to COVID-19. This includes the need to meet CDC guidelines to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction. Over-utilized schools may experience greater challenges with social distancing measures, or result in more students remaining in a virtual learning environment. PGCPS, like school districts around the country, also faces uncertainty about future enrollment. For example, there is the possibility of pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten population “bubbles” in school year 2021-2022 as many parents homeschool or defer enrollment. As PGCPS works to get students back into classrooms safely, it is more important than ever to avoid overcrowded classrooms, and plan thoughtfully for student enrollment growth.

School Utilization

Use this section of the website to learn about some of the key concepts and ideas at the center of this study.

School Utilization 

The map below shows schools of all levels across the district by utilization rate. Pink dots represent schools that are over-utilized, orange dots represent schools that are under-utilized, and green dots represent schools that fall within the ideal range of 80-95%. What patterns do you see in utilization across PGCPS?

Boundary and Utilization maps by education level

Challenges of Over & Under- utilization

Both over- and under-utilization pose unique challenges for the district.

  • Over-utilization (47 schools)
    • Over-enrolled classrooms
    • Overcrowded core spaces
    • Portable classrooms
    • Lack of parking
    • Overcrowded bus pick-up areas
  • Under-utilization (74 schools)
    • Vacant classrooms
    • Part-time specialty teachers
    • Higher cost per student to operate
    • Lower State capital project funding

Timeline

Boundary Initiative timeline

The Boundary Initiative process commenced in the Fall of 2020 and will conclude by December 2021. Potential boundary changes will go into effect for School Year 2022-23.

  • Phase 1 (October 2020-February 2021)
    • Data collection and analysis
    • Pre-scenario Stakeholder Engagement
    • Draft scenario development
  • Phase 2 (March-December 2021)
    • Post-scenario stakeholder engagement
    • Final scenario development
    • Boundary change approval process
    • Boundary changes go into effect

Did you know?

PGCPS is one of the 25 largest school districts in the United States and the second largest school system in Maryland

The school system includes 207 schools, 132,500 enrolled students and 20,000 staff members. The Boundary Initiative is limited to the 165 neighborhood schools within the district.

Utilization challenges vary across the district

Prince George’s County is a diverse area, which includes both densely populated communities within the Beltway, and rural areas. More over-utilized schools are located in the northern part of the district, while under-utilized schools are more likely to be located in the central and southern regions. This is due to demographic trends in recent years. As enrollment has grown, the geographic distribution of the student body has shifted toward the north.

School boundaries are guided by Board of Education policies and procedures

Board Policy 0113 is the policy that authorizes the PGCPS superintendent to develop and implement school boundaries. It requires that school boundaries be developed to best utilize available school facilities.

Administrative Procedure (AP) 8391 governs the process for creating school boundaries, including key factors to be considered and a timeline for the annual review process. These factors include:

  • Student Enrollment Trends
  • School Building Capacities and scheduled CIP projects
  • Capacity Utilization Rates
  • Transportation
  • Educational Programs
  • Financial Considerations
  • Community Input

AP 8391 was revised in 2020 to establish a Boundary Advisory Committee (BAC), a group of leaders from across PGCPS who are appointed by the CEO to advise the planning team about school boundaries each year.

Specialized programs are an important factor for facility utilization

PGCPS offers a wide range of specialized programs, including Talented and Gifted (TAG), Creative and Performing Arts , and Career Technical education (CTE). The school system has an English Language Learners (ELL) program, in which 21% of students participate, and special education programs in which 11% of students participate. Specialized programs present different needs for capacity and facility utilization. They may require additional space for students or special facilities and staff. As PGCPS adjusts and creates school boundaries, it is important to take these programs into account.

This initiative will only result in boundary changes for the district’s 165 neighborhood schools. Specialty schools, regional schools, charter schools and special education centers will not be included in boundary scenarios and options.

Boundary studies and changes are a regular part of school planning, in PGCPS and districts across the region.

PGCPS regularly reviews school boundaries and makes changes to boundaries as needed in select schools or parts of the district. The last time PGCPS did a comprehensive study of school boundaries was in 2008.

Other school districts in the region (and beyond) also review school boundaries regularly, and several have recently undertaken comprehensive boundary studies, redistricting, or changes to boundary policy. This includes:

  • Richmond Public Schools (RPS) undertook a rezoning last year, resulting in new school boundaries for the 2020-2021 school year. The objectives of this rezoning included alleviating overcrowding and the use of trailers, and placing students in more modern facilities through new school construction and/or consolidations and closures.
  • Howard County Public Schools (HCPSS) conducted a School Boundary Review Process in 2019 to address issues of over- and under-utilization across the district, which resulted in changes to school boundaries for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been reviewing its school boundary policy (School Board- Policy 8130.6) since 2018 with the goal of addressing overcrowding and meeting the demands of projected population growth.
  • Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is currently undertaking a comprehensive analysis of school boundaries. to better understand current conditions of utilization, diversity, and proximity in the school system.

Glossary

School Boundary - a geographic area that comprises residences that are assigned to a public school. If a student’s home address is inside a school’s boundary, they are assigned to attend that school. The area that makes up a school boundary is also referred to as an assignment area.

Boundary Advisory Committee - steering committee comprised of leaders from across the PGCPS organization. In addition to advising on the Boundary Initiative, the committee will convene annually to review enrollment projections and facility utilization, advise planning staff about boundary studies, and review and finalize boundary proposals which will be presented to the CEO.

Capacity - the total number of students that a school can accommodate. If a school is over-utilized, then student enrollment is greater than the school’s capacity. If a school is under-utilized, the enrollment is less than total capacity. PGCPS uses state-rated capacity (SRC) to determine school’s capacity. The SRC is the number of students that the State of Maryland determines that a school has the physical capacity to enroll and can be reasonably accommodated in a facility.

Charter School - Public charter schools receive government funding, but operate independently from the school system. PGCPS has 9 charter schools. PGCPS charter schools are free to attend but admission is by application to the charter school lottery only.

Consolidation - the practice of combining two or more schools for educational, economic, or facilities related reasons. In PGCPS, where many schools are under-utilized, this may involve sending students from an older under-utilized school to a newer, optimally utilized facility.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) - a program designed to provide appropriate, effective English language instruction to English Language Learners (ELL’s) in Kindergarten through 12th grade and to facilitate cultural awareness. This program is required by both federal and state regulations.

English Language Learners (ELL) - students who are determined by language proficiency testing to be in sufficient need of language support at school. ELL students receive language support from a certified teacher through the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. 21% of PGCPS students are English Language Learners.

Enrollment - in this analysis, this word usually refers to the total number of students who currently attend a school or a special program.

Feeder pattern - the sequence of schools that students are assigned to attend as they progress from elementary, to middle, to high school. In some cases, PGCPS students’ progress to the same secondary school as their peers from elementary or middle school. In other cases, they progress to different schools (also known as “split articulation”).

Neighborhood school/boundary school - the school that a student may attend without any special permission based on their home address. All neighborhood schools have geographic boundaries and are open to all students in the corresponding educational level who reside within that area.

Specialty School - a school with a specialized educational program that has a lottery or exam-based admission policy. Specialty school programs include Montessori, French Immersion, Spanish Immersion etc. 

Public-Private Partnership (P3) - A P3 is a collaborative partnership between public and private entities to complete a public infrastructure project or provide services to people. PGCPS recently launched a P3 program called Blueprint for PGCPS to innovatively finance and contract the delivery of needed school repairs, construction, and related services. The Blueprint for PGCPS Program is a P3 program launched in 2019. This $53 million effort takes an innovative approach to school construction financing through P3 to meet the needs of the district’s students and employees. Some advantages of PPP cited by PGCPS include: reduced risks to taxpayer resources, and a requirement that private partners maximize the life of new facilities and hand assets back to the public agency in excellent condition.

Learn more about the Blueprint for PGCPS program

Special education - specially designed instruction and other services for students with disabilities. PGCPS provides special education services to students with disabilities from birth to age 21, including support and resources for parents, guardians, and families. State and federal regulations require special education services in public school systems.

Utilization - Expressed as a percentage, utilization is determined by dividing student enrollment (number of students attending) by total capacity (number of seats available). If a school is over-utilized, the number of students enrolled exceeds its capacity. If a school is under-utilized, there are more seats available than students enrolled.

Walk zone - a geographic area around a school within which PGCPS has determined students can safely walk from home to school. Students living within a school’s walk zone are not eligible for bus service. PGCPS aims to assign students residing in a school’s walk zone to that school. Student transportation is governed by PGCPS Administrative Procedure 3541 - Student Transportation

Neighborhood school/boundary school - the public school that a student is assigned to based on their home address.

Get Involved

Are you a student, parent or guardian, teacher, or other member of the PGCPS community? We want to hear from you about your priorities regarding the district’s school boundaries.

Public meetings

At public meetings, the Boundary Initiative team informs the public about the process and analysis and hears from students, parents, guardians, teachers, and other members of the PGCPS community about their priorities and needs regarding the district’s school boundaries.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Phase I of the Boundary Initiative Engagement process! Over 1,150 community members took part in one of five virtual Community Conversations held during January 2021.  

Stay tuned for updates about the second round of community engagement activities, which will take place in Spring-Summer 2021. That engagement period will gather feedback on the draft boundary options created during Phase I.

Do you have comments, questions, or concerns to share? Click below to access our online comment form.  

Online Comment Form

Phase I Community Engagement Summary

The Community Engagement Summary is a report compiled by the WXY Team to share the findings from the first phase of community engagement, conducted in January 2021. The report offers context about the PGCPS Comprehensive Boundary Initiative process and objectives, outlines engagement activities conducted in the first phase of engagement, and shares insights gathered in Community Conversations, including polling data and key themes logged by facilitators in breakout rooms at public meetings.

(Note: click the pop-out icon in the top right corner of the report to view in full screen and/or download the report)

Phase 1 Engagement Recap

Unable to attend a meeting during Phase I and want to learn more about the Boundary Initiative? View a recording of a public meeting, or browse the presentation slides.

Watch: Community Conversation Recording 

Presentation Slides

View the presentation from community conversations below. (Note: click the pop-out icon in the top right corner of the presentation to view in full screen and/or download the presentation)