In this “Spotlight on Schools” series from Route One Fun!, a local parent will share his or her experience with their local elementary school in Prince George’s County. Would love to hear from other folks interested in sharing similar stories about their local public elementary school – just shoot me a message using the nifty “contact” widget on the blog!
Start at the Beginning:
After baby made four, we knew that we needed to move out of our apartment in DC and on to an area that was affordable, diverse (racially and economically) with good public schools and a commute into DC that would not exceed an hour. Having a local arts community would be icing on the cake. It seemed like a herculean task at first and everyone was recommending places way outside the beltway. Feeling heavy-hearted about a work schedule and a commute that already limited my quality time with my babes to the half hour after dinner and before bedtime, I was determined to focus my research on areas that would check off most of our boxes while not increasing my commute time.
One day after a morning at the NASA Goddard Space Center, we aimlessly drove around the Route 1 area in Prince George’s County in an attempt to prolong our kids’ naps. In doing so, we stumbled upon Cheverly, Hyattsville, University Park, Calvert Hills, and Riverdale. These communities were/are beautiful and seemed to capture a lot of what we were seeking. After comparing school numbers and ratings with those of similar affordability in Montgomery, Fairfax or Arlington Counties, we decided that this was the area for us and rented a house in the area. We were smitten with its beautiful homes, proximity to two playgrounds, a great trolley trail an enviable sense of community. We made friends with many lovely folks and got first-hand, accounts of their experience sending their children to the local public elementary school: University Park Elementary School. Suffice it to say, we now send our son to UPES, will be sending our daughter as soon as she is ready!
In case you’re in the same spot as we were a couple of years ago, or are just generally trying to get a sense of what the local public schools are like from an actual parent’s perspective, I’m putting together this “Spotlight on Schools” series in which a local parent will share his or her experience with their local elementary schools. The first post will feature Greenbelt Elementary School. I hope you enjoy this first post!
By: Andrea McClelland
GES PTA Secretary & Mom to a Second-grader and a Kindergartner
As Greenbelt Elementary School’s (GES) Open House approaches, and I know that families are considering their school options for next year, I am reminded of an article I read several years back in support of GES. At that time, my husband and I were debating whether to send our eldest to GES, or to look for another option. Reading about GES from the perspective of a current parent was really helpful to us, and I’d like to share my own thoughts in support of GES and about our family’s experience there.
We have two kids at GES, one in Second grade and one in Kindergarten, and overall, our experience has been very positive. I feel that the positive energy at GES comes from the top down. Our principal, Ms. Gaines, is an effective and decisive leader who hires excellent staff, stretches each dollar of her budget, and is always looking for opportunities to improve GES and benefit our students. Ms. Gaines is responsive and respectful, and encourages cooperation and civility within the school population.
Both of my children have young teachers, hired within the last few years by Ms. Gaines. Both are confident, efficient, effective, caring, and dedicated. I have been impressed with most of the teachers I have come into contact with at GES.
I don’t want to place undue emphasis on the importance of school ratings, but I will point out that our rating on “Greatschools.org” has gone up from 5/10 to 7/10 in just the past 4 or 5 years. Our school will continue to improve if more involved and committed parents from our community “opt in”.
Here are some other positives to consider:
1. All students now have a 30 minute daily recess! This was a big win, given that the mandated minimum for recess in PG County is 15 minutes.
2. Sending your child to their neighborhood school allows them to develop friendships with kids that live nearby, makes for a short commute, allows you to more easily participate in school events, etc.
3. GES is now an arts-integrated school and has a very active arts community. Local artists secure grants to lead projects (such as a recent astronomy-themed dance project with the Second grade), and teachers incorporate arts activities into their lesson plans to enhance learning.
4. GES is working toward the Green School certification.
5. Teachers and Administration work hard to place students appropriately so that they can offer differentiated learning experiences, including to TAG (talented and gifted)-identified students.
6. GES has an active PTA, which works hard to create community-building events and support for GES teachers. Our very successful fundraising efforts at the Labor Day Book Sale mean that we can give a substantial amount of money to the school to pay for supplies and activities that directly benefit students and teachers. Examples of how this money has been spent so far this year include: a full-day arts-integration training for ten teachers, a Hip Hop poetry workshop and assembly, dance and magic show assemblies, an A-Z computer program license for the Kindergarten classrooms, and a full-day conference for two teachers in support of our Green School certification.
Has GES been a 100% perfect fit for us, with no problems? No. But when we have encountered problems, they have been manageable, and teachers/administration have been responsive to our concerns.
I encourage you to come see Greenbelt Elementary at our Open House on Tuesday, Feb 28, 9:30-11am. You are welcome to attend even if you are a couple years away from choosing your child’s first elementary school. Thanks, and hope to see you at the Open House!
GES PTA Secretary Mom to a Second-grader and a KindergartnerLike what you’ve read? Check out these additional schools featured in our Spotlight on Schools Series!
Greenbelt Elementary School
Dora Kennedy French Immersion School
University Park Elementary School
Riverdale Elementary School
Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School
Robert Goddard Montessori School
Mt. Rainier Elementary School
Holy Redeemer School
Want to write and share a little bit about your local Prince George’s County school? Please do! Contact me at Sarah@routeonefun.com