Parents of students attending Cesar Chavez and Perrywood elementary schools spoke out against proposed boundary changes Tuesday night, asking officials not to break apart the school communities they have built.
“I don’t believe that this change is necessary,” said Elisa Aragon of Hyattsville, parent of a first-grader at Chavez Elementary in Hyattsville. Aragon spoke out against the proposed conversion of Chavez from a neighborhood school to a specialty dual-language Spanish immersion school, with a lottery held for seats.
“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. And Cesar Chavez’s Spanish immersion program isn’t broken; it’s just gone unnoticed,” Aragon said.
Under the proposed conversion, students currently attending the school will continue to do so, said Johndel Jones-Brown, director of pupil accounting and boundaries, but future kindergarten seats will be available only through a countywide lottery. Incoming students who would have attended Chavez as their neighborhood school will instead be zoned for Rosa Parks or Chillum elementary schools.
Aragon said parents are very active in the school community and proud of its existing Spanish-English immersion program.
“With the possible phasing out process that you are considering, you are tearing apart our family,” Aragon said.
Liliana Cruz, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and parent of a fourth-grader at the school, said families with pre-school-aged children have relocated to the neighborhood because they want their child to attend Chavez and should not have to be asked to lottery into the program.
“What we want is for the younger siblings of the upper grade students currently attending our school to be given the right to attend our school in the hope of keeping siblings together,” Cruz said.
Jones-Brown said that under the current proposal, no preference in the lottery would be given to students with siblings already attending the school.
Amanda Stewart, PTA president at Perrywood Elementary in Largo and parent of first- and fifth-graders, also expressed concern that under current plans, her children and others in her neighborhood will now be zoned for Kettering Elementary in Upper Marlboro, as more students are moved to Perrywood to relieve overcrowding at Barack Obama Elementary in Upper Marlboro.
“Perrywood has been our neighborhood’s school since it first opened its doors 14-plus years ago. My neighbors and I have expressed a strong connection to Perrywood over all those years,” Stewart said. “We as parents and you as a school board have a shared responsibility to strengthen these connections and not to shuffle kids around for the sake of numbers.”
The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed boundary changes at its Feb. 25 meeting. Individuals may sign up to speak at the meeting or may email comments to the school system.