NewSchoolYearPG2

The new school year in Prince George’s County began with several changes meant to assist both students and faculty in the education process. (AFRO File Photo)

The new school year in Prince George’s County, Maryland began on Aug. 25 with several changes meant to assist both students and faculty in the education process.

In addition to the existing school immunization requirements, all students entering kindergarten and Grade 1 must have had two varicella, more commonly referred to as chicken pox vaccinations and all students entering Grade 7 and 8 must have had one Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccination and one meningococcal (meningitis) vaccination. This is the result of changes made by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  A child has up to 20 days from the start of school to show proof of vaccinations or that they have started a plan to get the missing immunizations.

“The changes in vaccinations are determined by the Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) who deliberate on the use of vaccines to control disease in the U.S., taking into consideration disease epidemiology and burden of disease, vaccine efficacy and effectiveness, vaccine safety, economic analyses and implementation issues,” said Angela M. Wakhweya, chief of the Office of School Health Policy, Services and Innovation. “These recommendations determine what the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene then requires of students in Maryland schools.”

Students who do not comply with the new immunization requirements within the 20 days will be “excluded on day 21,” according to Wakhweya. However, this change primarily impacts students coming from a country outside of the United States.

Additional changes include increased meal prices. For the 2015-2016 school year, the Department of Food and Nutrition Services will charge $1.60 for full-price breakfast, $0.30 for reduced-price breakfast, $2.75 for full-price lunch, and $0.40 for reduced-price lunch for elementary students. Meals for middle and high school students are $1.60 for full-price breakfast, $0.30 for reduced-price breakfast, $3.00 for full-price lunch, and $0.40 for reduced-price lunch. Price changes were made to cover increased costs of providing school meals.

There are also building restorations. Ten high schools received upgrades to their athletic facilities. Dr. Henry A. Wise and Gwynn Park will have new turf fields and stadium lighting; Charles Herbert Flowers, DuVal, Frederick Douglass, and Northwestern will have new rubberized running tracks; Frederick Douglass, Parkdale, and Suitland will have new tennis courts; and Potomac will have new stadium bleachers.

Additionally, students in 40 elementary schools and Early Childhood Centers have new playground sets. All restorations were made possible through the county’s Capital Involvement Program.

“Various athletic facility improvements are addressed under the major repairs in our County Wide Funded category,” Rupert I.P. McCave, a program officer, said. “These projects include track repairs, fencing and enclosures, stadium and bleacher upgrades or replacements. For fiscal year 2017, the proposed budget is over $5 million requested for some of these projects at various schools.” He also said the budget proposal for playgrounds, in 2017, is $200,000. The county’s FY2016 budget invested $34 million to public schools.

If the budget is approved, Fairmont Heights High School, Tulip Grove Elementary School, Glenarden Woods Elementary School, Suitland Hugh School, William Wirt Middle School, and Benjamin Stoddert Middle School will be next to get improved facilities.

Two New International High Schools have also opened and are housed in preexisting schools – one at Largo High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and another at Annapolis Road Academy in Bladensburg, Maryland. The schools are based on a model developed by the Internationals Network for Public Schools, designed to raise achievement and meet the needs of English Language Learners.

John Hanson French Immersion changed its name to Maya Angelou French Immersion in honor of the Pulitzer-nominated author and poet and Robert Goddard French Immersion changed its name to Dora Kennedy French Immersion  after the first supervisor of foreign-language education in the county’s public schools.