Charter school plans $13.7 million addition

March 20, 2010|By John-John Williams IV | john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Baltimore's Patterson Park Public Charter School plans to launch construction Monday of a $13.7 million addition, becoming the first charter school in the state to tap into money typically available to hospitals and colleges.

The project, expected to be completed by November, will allow the school to build six classrooms for middle-school students, as well as a music center and an art facility. Several existing classrooms will be converted into technology and music laboratories.

The addition will follow Baltimore City's Green Building Standards, and construction will include "green" features such as solar panels, storm-water irrigation and recycled content materials.

"It really enhances the entire educational experience," said Ed Rutkowski, the executive director, adding that the school will soon have enough space to add pre-kindergarten in 2011.

The expansion is funded through tax-free bonds issued last week by the Maryland Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority.

"This is a different mechanism for improving the quality of the facilities in Baltimore City," said Rutkowski. "We've been looking at this for a long time. It is very cramped. We have no space for anything else."

Housed in the former archdiocese school, St. Elizabeth's, Patterson Park Charter was among the first Maryland charter schools, opening in 2005. In its first year, the school taught 325 students in kindergarten through fourth grade, and a new grade level has been added each year.

Two years ago, the school board awarded Patterson Park Charter a five-year contract - the longest amount possible.

Patterson Park Charter operates on a lottery system. Last year, 346 students applied for 108 spots."Charter schools play an important role in building a portfolio of great schools for our kids," schools CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso said in a prepared statement.

Alonso said the school system "was pleased to support Patterson Park's efforts by providing umbrella financing for their bond issue to facilitate this new middle school building. We look forward to creating more settings where our children learn in the types of buildings they deserve."

In addition to core courses, the school features music, art, Spanish, technology and physical education. There is also an emphasis on community service.

The school uses a thematic approach to learning. Every quarter, lesson plans revolve around a theme, Rutkowski said. For example, students at the school are currently learning about medieval times. Teachers across all subjects tie the theme into their daily lessons.

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