College Park Academy opening date in flux despite location choice -- Gazette.Net


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A new charter school in College Park initially planned to have classrooms filled by next school year may not be ready until 2014, officials said.

The College Park Academy, set to become Prince George’s County’s eighth charter school, is set to open at the former College Park Elementary School building at 4601 Calvert Road, which was a functioning school from the 1930s to 1970s. However, the site still needs a detailed site plan, an engineering study and renovations.

Teachers also still need to be hired and an application period for students must be held, according to the founding board, which consists of city officials, University of Maryland representatives and school curriculum professionals.

“We need to make a decision to go forward and open the school in fall 2013 or wait because of the uncertainty,” said City Councilman Robert Catlan (Dist. 2), an academy founding board member. “We’re progressing as if the school is going to open, and I’m hoping it’s sooner than later, but we don’t want to tell people it’s going to open and then delays happen and it not be able to go through.”

He said the founding board plans to decide whether to still pursue a fall 2013 school opening during its Nov. 20 meeting.

Much of the planning for the academy was put on hold until the Prince George’s County school board approved the proposal for the academy in June, which added roughly $2.4 million in operating costs to the school system’s budget. The school will serve grades six through 12 and educate students through a mix of face-to-face and online education.

Plans for the charter school emerged in mid-2011 when the University of Maryland College of Education approached the city and suggested a charter school as part of UM President Wallace Loh’s efforts to create more city-university partnerships.

Joe Nagro, College Park’s city manager, said the university believes the academy will make College Park a more attractive place for faculty and staff to live and has the potential to serve as a site for UM student partnerships and student teaching opportunities.

“Part of Dr. Loh’s initiative is to work with the city on a variety of fronts, and one of those is enhancing public education options in the city,” Nagro said. “The University of Maryland would be involved intimately with the school. Having the academy in turn makes the university more attractive.”

Nagro said the location was chosen after a nearly six-month search, which involved looking for funding sources and finding adequate land to house such a facility, ultimately leading to the city-owned school building property.

Choosing the site on Calvert Road in northern College Park means the city’s code enforcement division, which is currently run out of the building, will have to be housed in the city’s municipal building on Knox Road, Nagro said.

When the academy does open, board members said they will begin with grades six and seven with about 200 students and will add one additional grade level each year until there are grades six through 12, totaling about 700 students.

Mickey Revenaugh, a representative of Connections Academy, which the College Park school’s curriculum will be based from, said the students will have face-to-face teachers in more traditional classroom experiences for subjects such as English, science and math and take online courses for more non-traditional courses such as Chinese, which is only available in three county schools. She said the blend of instruction will be based on each student’s personal progress.

College Park Academy has been given a Jan. 1 student application deadline and school officials would pick winners in February, Catlan said.

djgross@gazette.net