***photo taken September 6, 2016***
by Melissa Face
Parent of Walton Elementary students
Nearly four years ago, my husband and I moved our two children to Prince George from Wakefield. This decision was not an easy one, as it meant leaving extended family behind. But we relocated in order to enroll our children in Prince George County Schools.
Prior to moving to the county, I was employed with the school system from 2008-2015. I taught special education and English at Prince George High School. Within that time frame, I had the opportunity to serve on the school system’s communications committee. We met regularly with the superintendent, and I found it an insightful experience that allowed me to understand the inner workings and goals of the school system. And even though we were often facing and addressing our own flaws and shortcomings (including our outdated, aging facilities), the division seemed concerned. The outlook seemed forward thinking. And the future appeared hopeful.
Those emotions have morphed into concern and fear. I am afraid of short and long-term health concerns, as my husband and I deliver our children each day to a building that is infested with mold, CO2, and other contaminants. I am afraid of them being at an open campus with a security situation that has historically been contingent upon funding received from a grant. I am concerned about the temporary fix of moving children to a trailer until a more permanent solution is created. I am afraid that the people who can make change happen may not do it.
It is time for our children and their safety to be prioritized within the county. They deserve better, and the county is letting them down. The county is letting us all down.
Posts and reader comments on Prince George County’s social media page indicate that the county is concerned about new business. But think about it: What reason is the county giving businesses to build or relocate here? Where is the attraction? Why should families move to Prince George County? Why should those of us who live here stay? What is the long-term relationship between the county and Fort Lee going to look like if schools aren’t improved? Will it remain a “solid partnership”? I am doubtful.
At this point, taxpayers, parents, and teachers really aren’t interested in who did what in the past. I don’t care who was or wasn’t invited to a particular meeting. Build a school for our children, and do it now. As the Prince George County School Board and the Board of Supervisors move toward next week’s meeting, I urge them to make a decision that will result in the quickest, safest solution for our students.
The county has some serious catching up to do in terms of the school system’s buildings, technology, and safety. It’s time to make changes before parents begin seeking alternative routes for their children. Moving is an option. Private schools are an option. Creating a charter school within Prince George County is also an option to consider. I know I’m considering it.