A Laurel charter school is expanding next school year, offering a math- and science-focused curriculum at a new school in northern Prince George’s for lower grade levels and at a new school in the southern part of the county.
Chesapeake Math and Information Technology Academy in Laurel opened in 2011 and is operated by Hanover-based nonprofit Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation.
It plans to open another school in the Laurel area for kindergarten through the fifth grade next school year. The current school houses 475 students in grades 6 through 9, but additional grades are gradually being added to include all high school grades.
The foundation — which also operates Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Hanover — also plans to open a school for grades 6 through 12 at a yet-to-be determined location in the southern portion of the county.
The school board approved plans for both schools in late August.
“CMIT has done a really good job of creating a culture of learning,” said A. Duane Arbogast, Prince George’s County Public Schools’ chief academic officer. “I think they deserve an opportunity to replicate that success in the south county.”
More than 90 percent of CMIT’s middle school students tested proficient or advanced on the 2013 Maryland State Assessment for both math and reading, significantly higher than both the county and state averages.
“The work that they’re doing is industry-ready math application in a seventh-grade class,” said school board member Zabrina Epps (Dist. 1), whose district includes Laurel. “I think it’s great that Prince George’s County Public Schools can provide children with that opportunity earlier on.”
The new north county elementary school would be in a separate school, with its own administration, said the foundation’s chief executive officer, Omer Ozmeral.
“We are still searching vacant buildings close to the current CMIT location,” Ozmeral said.
CMIT Academy, like other foundation schools, is focused on science and technology.
“In assessing the need for IT public charter schools in Prince George’s County, we met with numerous elected officials and members of local community organizations, churches and neighborhood associations,” Ozmeral said. “The feedback we received was very supportive, encouraging and affirmed the need for CMIT replication in the southern area.”
Because of the limited seats available at Prince George’s County charter schools, a lottery is held for interested students to gain admission to the schools.
Ozmeral attributed the school’s high test scores to a number of factors, including strong communication with parents, high academic rigor and data-driven decision-making on students’ needs and curriculum.
Laurel resident Boris Johnson, a parent of an eighth-grader at CMIT Academy, said he wasn’t satisfied with the education his son was getting at another school. He applied for the CMIT’s lottery, based on research he did on the foundation’s Anne Arundel school.
“They’re about pushing the kids to learn, and not just trying to reach a benchmark. They set high expectations, and they have an intuitive way of making sure every child performs at that level,” said Johnson, who co-chairs the school’s Parent Task Force.