Chesapeake Science Point almost didn't open. But after a last-minute scramble to get the building ready, pupils were yesterday's final addition to the science and math charter school.

Excitement surrounds school

September 07, 2005|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,SUN STAFF

Just outside the front door yesterday morning sat piles of cardboard boxes, mounds of rolled up carpet and several empty tubs of paint.

Inside, pupils at Chesapeake Science Point, a science and technology charter school in Hanover, were greeted by blue and white balloons and the smell of a fresh coat of canary-yellow paint on their first day of school.

The 112 sixth- and seventh-graders, dressed in white shirts, navy pants or skirts, and black shoes, didn't seem to mind that their new school - which almost didn't open yesterday - was still a little rough around the edges. The children simply navigated their way around workers doing last-minute repairs. One boy was most concerned that corn dogs were the only lunch offering yesterday, as he and his classmates seated themselves in folding chairs in the large open space that serves as the school's cafeteria and also holds the lockers, nurse's office, parent room and spaces for after-school activities.

Josh Prucnal, 11, said he was just excited to be in a place where he expects a more rigorous curriculum.

"It's different than the middle school I was going to go to. This school specializes in math and science, and I really like math and science," he said. "I thought I'd learn more here."

Parents who hung around the school yesterday morning said they could overlook the "bumps" in the school's opening because they are excited about the charter school's mission and potential.

"Of course I have qualms - it's brand-new. It's all a leap of faith," said Vicki Lines of Pasadena, mother of a sixth-grader enrolled at the school.

Becky Gardner of Glen Burnie said her 11-year-old son, Casey, was not challenged at his elementary school and spent his time tutoring other pupils or teaching his teachers about computers. She hopes he will be challenged at Chesapeake Science Point.

"I'm more excited than any of my worries because of what the school is based upon," she said.

Other parents said the promise of small classes, a focus on math and science, and a tougher learning environment were worth the uncertainty. And being part of the opening of a brand-new school, which they helped bring to life, gave them a sense of ownership, some said, and created a new sense of community. Parents, faculty and some pupils worked together almost nonstop over the past several days to ensure the school would open yesterday.

"We made curtains, we were painting, scrubbing floors, helping teachers put their rooms together," said Lines, adding that she and other parents spent Friday through Monday working on the school. Yesterday, Lines was heading out to do more shopping for the school, this time for chairs for the teachers' lounge.

The school was to have opened Aug. 29, the same day as other county public schools. But when the school's first site didn't meet Fire Department standards, a new opening day was scheduled for yesterday. Then, last Wednesday, Chesapeake Science Point officials were given a list of issues that needed to be resolved before the school could open - including receiving a certificate of occupancy and providing proof of insurance - creating uncertainty about whether the school would open this year at all.

On Friday, a temporary occupancy permit, good for 60 days, was granted, allowing the school to open on time.

"It's a perfect day," said Jon Omural, Chesapeake Science Point's director. The charter school has been two years in the making, he said, and he felt relieved once the doors were open and the children were in their classrooms - taking assessment tests.

"If you were here nine days ago, you wouldn't believe the change," Omural said.

The school, which is in a 20,000-square-foot former computer-training facility in an industrial park, still needs minor work, he said. Many rooms, such as a planned science lab, are still empty. Omural said that the school likely will stay at its current site for three years but that it will have to move as the pupil population increases.

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