The North Forestville Community Center, which unofficially opened June 17, is attached to the school and will be sharing its gymnasium with the school. A July 31 grand opening featured a DJ, dancing and martial arts demonstrations.
Cynthia Jackson, North Forestville Community Center director, said she plans to offer special programs and classes after school that students can attend, such as dancing, karate and arts and crafts.
“We have about 324 kids that need a place to go after school. We have games for them to play. They can do homework,” Jackson said. “We can create different programs for them, just to keep their minds busy after school.”
Sasha Desrouleaux, citizen services specialist for County Councilman Derrick Davis’ office, said the 13,000 square-foot facility cost $3.8 million to build.
Though there have been plans for the center to be built since 2002, because of permitting problems and having to change contractors it took about 10 years for the facility to be built, Desrouleaux said.
Wanda Ramos, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s division chief of central operations, said that children can register for free identification cards so that they can attend various activities.
“It’s like a drop-in community center,” she said. “As long as they have an ID they can come into the center.”
The center will have open gym for those ages six to 17, Ramos said. Ramos said Jackson has some activities already set up for children to sign up for, but is working on getting more into place.
Principal Melissa Ellis of North Forestville Elementary School said she was excited about the benefits the community center offers, but she had concerns about the community center being attached to the school regarding student safety and sharing a parking lot.
“If I have an event that’s after hours and they’re open, then [parking] may be a challenge,” Ellis said.
Ramos said that as partners they need to keep the lines of communication open so that the school and community center can co-host events or not schedule them for the same dates.
Ramos said she saw the community making good use of the center within the first couple days of its unofficial opening in June as children asked if the center was open and if they could play basketball.
“All of a sudden we had 20 kids because they were all texting each other to come to the center,” Ramos said.
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 13, 2013 edition of The Prince George’s Gazette.