The Baltimore schools are exploring ways the Inner Harbor's Columbus Center might become a center for teaching city students math and science.
City principals and Columbus Center staff will begin meetings tomorrow on how the center might help train teachers, provide after-school programs for nearby Southern High School or serve as a site for math and science programs next fall, according to interim city school chief Robert Schiller.
As early as this spring the Columbus Center could be used by Southern High School, which initiated after-school programs in the fall as a way to improve academic standards.
"There have been a number of discussions between the leadership of the school system and the Columbus Center as to how the two can work together to meet the goals," said James T. Brady, Maryland's secretary of business and economic development.
"What Dr. Schiller is anxious to see is how he can utilize the Columbus Center to positively impact his after-school programs and all the things he views as critically important to make the school system right."
The $147 million Columbus Center, which houses high-level marine biotechnology laboratories and scientists, was built to be an Inner Harbor tourist attraction as well.
But the public exhibition hall closed abruptly late last year after it failed to meet attendance projections and went into debt.
Columbus Center officials have been scrambling to find a new tenant that will bring in enough dollars to support the research labs and educational programs. While a partnership with city schools might help students, it would not be a cure for the institution's financial problems, which must be addressed in another way.
The Columbus Center is a world-class institution with accomplished scientists who might be able to offer students training that would lead them into a career, said Chris Lambert, director of planning and policy for city schools. The center has space to hold classes and laboratories.
The center is considering alternatives for the exhibit hall space, including an insect exhibit for the zoo or the redevelopment of the property with the Pier 4 Power Plant next door by the Cordish Co.
XTC "There have been a lot of ideas and none of those have been discarded and none have been adopted," Brady said. "By the end of January we will be in a position to have some sense of where we are going. Needless to say, this is a very complicated equation."
Brady is one of a three-member board representing the state, the city and the University of Maryland that was named to reverse the center's financial problems.