Frederick school board advances plans for two charter schools, denies a third -- Gazette.Net







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The Frederick Outdoor Discovery Charter School will not open its doors in Frederick County any time soon, but two other charter schools are on track to open next fall.

The Frederick school board on Monday unanimously denied the outdoor charter school’s application, but approved the building plans for both the Frederick Classical Charter School and the Carroll Creek Montessori Public Charter School.

Organizers of the two schools will next iron out the final details in their applications and, with a final blessing from the board, can start recruiting students in the spring.

“We are very pleased to see more school choice in Frederick County,” said Suzanne Middleton, a founding parent for the Frederick Classical Charter School. “There is definitely enthusiasm for the concept.”

The Frederick Classical Charter School received board approval in October, when organizers presented plans for using a 45,000-square-foot building south of U.S. 40, off Hillcrest Drive. The $4.7 million building was supposed to be built by the Frederick Alliance for Youth, a group dedicated to improving conditions for youth in the west side of Frederick.

But that agreement fell through because the alliance did not obtain its final, $1.8 million grant to build it. So Frederick Classical Charter School advocates came to the board with a new building proposal on Monday.

Advocates for the school presented a plan to work with the Riverside Tech Park to fit out and lease space in a building located at 8420 Gas House Pike, Frederick.

The new facility will spread across 28,000 square feet, which meets the school system’s standards for a school of the proposed size, Middleton said.

The school aims to start with 250 students and build that to as many as 360 children in grades five through eighth. The school will use a more traditional, teacher-led approach than others in Frederick County Public Schools.

Unlike most public schools, the Frederick Classical Charter School would teach history chronologically and use Latin to explain the origins of the English language.

School board members on Monday night approved the school’s proposed facility, but only after they heard advocates’ plans to provide recreation space. The school is planning to use a 2,200-square-foot play area at the new site, and is considering transporting students out for activities that require more space.

Board members praised charter school organizers for finding the space, which has proved the most difficult task for charter school applicants in Frederick County.

Even board member Angie Fish, who has criticized the charter school’s building choices, agreed the new facility is appropriate.

“This facility is so much better than the first one you proposed,” she said.

Organizers for the Carroll Creek Montessori Charter School on Monday also presented new plans for their building.

Modeled after the Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School — the only charter school in Frederick County — the second Montessori school plans to use the same hands-on methods to educate 250 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, offering a partial Spanish immersion program.

Organizers plan to start with 160 students, and on Monday presented plans to use a building space at Saint Thomas More Academy, 3889 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick.

According to Mustafa Karakus, one of the school leaders, the school will use seven classrooms. The school will share a gym with St. Thomas More, but will not have a designated computer lab, Karakus said.

Instead, each classroom will have a computer for the teachers and staff will provide computers on a cart that can be rolled into classrooms for students.

The school board unanimously approved the proposal, though some school board members were concerned about the lack of a computer lab.

Board members April Miller and Katie Groth said they also wanted to have a chance to discuss the school’s plans for an immersion program before plans for the school can move forward.

Both the Classical Charter School and the Carroll Creek Montessori Charter School are expected to present final plans to the board by March 1 to ensure a fall opening.

Although the board denied the Frederick Outdoor Discovery Charter application, it encouraged organizers to come back after revising their application.

“I don’t want this to be lack of encouragement for you to apply again,” Fish said.

Aiming to educate 120 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, the outdoor charter school proposal focuses on natural sciences, community-based studies and outdoor education. The school was modeled after the Seneca Creek Charter School, which was rejected by the Montgomery County Board of Education in July.

Although school board members liked the concept for the school, they also were concerned about issues such as insufficient budget, the zoning of its proposed building, as well as its curriculum.

Proponents of the charter school were hoping to use the “Environment as an Integrating Context” model — an approach that incorporates the environment on all levels of curriculum.

But in their proposal, advocates for the school asked to use the Frederick County Public Schools curriculum until they hire teachers to develop the EIC model based on their school’s location.

Board members, however, did not feel comfortable approving a school without seeing plans for its new program.

“Concept-wise I don’t have problem with it,” said Miller. “I just think it needs more time to flesh out.”

Advocates for the outdoor charter school could not say if they would re-apply next year.

Krisna Becker of Clarksburg, one of the main proponents of the school, said she was not sure if the board would change its view of the school’s use of the Environment as Integrating Context Model, which only allows to develop curriculum based on a working, staffed school and the natural characteristics of its location.

“It is something our group would have to seriously consider,” Becker said.