Though about 300 students were selected last week to attend the College Park Academy, $500,000 in funding for the charter school may be slashed from the state budget.
Last week, the state’s Department of Legislative Services recommended a host of cuts to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s higher education plan, including funding for the College Park Academy. However, state Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel) said O’Malley is dedicated to supporting the project.
The school, a partnership with the city and university, will likely secure state money and open as planned this fall, he said.
“This will be one of the most innovative schools in the state,” Rosapepe said. “There’s a lot of interest in the legislature as well as with the governor to get it funded, so I’m very optimistic.”
Though state funding would greatly aid in getting the school off the ground, education college dean Donna Wiseman said the cut will not hinder its launch.
“The school is a public school, so it will be funded like any other public school,” said Wiseman, a member of the school’s founding board. “Additional resources that we would put in from the state budget would be used primarily for the start-up funds, for things such as furniture.”
The county will supply most of the school’s funding, though it will also see support from College Park, the university and — assuming the General Assembly approves O’Malley’s budget in April — the state. However, DLS recommended the cuts on the basis that the state’s higher education funding should not go toward a charter school, said Student Government Association President Samantha Zwerling.
Last week, Zwerling testified before the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that the academy’s success would be far-reaching within the state. For example, the SGA is in the midst of writing a proposal for after-school programming.
“It’s a school where our students from UMD can go to learn teaching,” Zwerling said.
Besides connecting the university with the city, the College Park Academy will benefit higher education in the long run, Zwerling said.
“The whole point of the academy is that students between grades six through 12 have the opportunity to earn up to 60 credits,” Zwerling said.
In essence, the academy would be “paying” for the students’ tuition, as they receive credits for college courses before graduating, Rosapepe said.
Following a lottery pick at College Park City Hall on Wednesday, roughly 300 sixth and seventh graders out of about 400 applicants will receive an invitation for a spot in the school, Rosapepe said. The academy, to be located in the former site of St. Mark the Evangelist School in Hyattsville, will push interactive and technology-blended learning and will offer a variety of teaching opportunities to university students.
Any relationship between the university and the county’s education would only benefit both parties in the long term, Rosapepe said.
“Having the University of Maryland deeply engaged with our local public schools is a big plus,” he said.