College Park’s charter school forced to open in Hyattsville -- Gazette.Net


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College Park’s new charter school is still on track to open this fall, albeit not within the city itself.

The College Park Academy, a public charter school, was supposed to open up at the site of the former College Park Elementary on Calvert Road, but after residents complained of increased traffic and the building needing extensive renovations to meet code and additional classrooms, officials opted for another temporary location.

The academy will now open at Hyattsville’s St. Mark’s School on Adelphi Road, a former private school that is now vacant and is located less than two miles from the previous Calvert Road site.

“It is a little bit disappointing,” City Councilman Robert Catlin (District 2), who sits on the charter school’s founding board. “But it was a choice between opening in the fall of 2013 or waiting another year to find another site in College Park.”

Catlin said the new site will not be within walking distance for most College Park students. Still, he said he was excited that the project was moving forward and would be another option for residents.

The University of Maryland, College Park, and the city partnered on the academy and will offer students a combination of face-to-face and online teaching. The school will start with 300 sixth- and seventh-graders in fall 2013 and a class will be added each year until it has 700 students from sixth to twelfth grade, according to Frank Brewer, the academy’s executive director.

The school will only stay at St. Mark’s for two years as the student population will grow too large by the third year, Brewer said. During that time, officials will look for another College Park site, he said.

College Park will spend $80,000 this fiscal year for the project, with the university putting in $80,000 as well, officials said. The university is committed to fund the project for about $80,000 for two more years, with the Prince George’s County school system contributing $2.57 million starting in June.

Mayor Andrew Fellows said he expects the city to support the school with at least $80,000 in funding for “a few years,” adding he was excited about the project because the move was only temporary and the school was still close to the city. The money from the city and university was given to the College Park-City University Partnership, a nonprofit which fosters collaboration between the city and the university, In turn, the money was transferred to officials with the academy. Any money spent in excess of the $80,000 contributions from the city and university will be paid back by the academy, Brewer said.

College Park resident Marion Green, 69, said she was opposed to the city spending money on the charter school in general, because there is no set amount of College Park children that will get into the school, as students from all over the county can apply and will be selected from a random lottery in February if more applications come in than there are seats.

Fellows said the school will provide more options for residents when looking for a middle school or high school, and will be conveniently located for College Park residents.

Hyattsville Councilman Tim Hunt (Ward 3), whose ward includes St. Mark’s, said he welcomed the charter’s temporary Hyattsville location and was unaware of any complaints from residents.

Anne Kelly, 82, of Hyattsville said she attends St. Mark’s Church and was supportive of the charter school’s move.

”Our school is being underused and it is a beautiful facility,” she said. “It is a shame for it to go to waste.”

tsandoval@gazette.net