Laurel resident Glenda Ward hasn't had an easy time finding a charter school for her 11-year-old daughter, Sianni. Ward said she looked throughout Prince George's County and now she's confident she's found exactly what she's looking for with a new math and science academy set to open right in her own back yard.
"My daughter was almost starting at another charter school last year but at the last minute they didn't have a location," Ward said. "But this new school seems to have it all together in terms of plans and renovations. They seem to have done it before."
Ward was one of about 25 parents who attended a March 5 open house for the Chesapeake Math and IT Academy public charter school at the Laurel Library.
The academy, which was approved by the Prince George's County Board of Education last November, is slated to open this August at 6100 Frost Place.
"We'll offer other classes such as English and history," said school president Mehmet Kurum, an electrical engineer for NASA'S Goddard Space Flight Center. "But we'll put more emphasis on math and information technology to reflect their increasing importance."
Kurum said the existence of places like NASA and the University of Maryland, College Park, nearby in addition to the Base Realignment and Closure program, which is expected to create 60,000 defense and technology jobs in Maryland in coming years, makes it in a student's best interest to cultivate strong math and IT skills.
"I think science and math are the two areas that schools are always trying to enhance and they recognize that," said Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe, who met with school officials last year. "What they had planned sounded good. I think it's something beneficial."
The school would start off with 300 sixth- and seventh-graders before expanding to include 12th grade in 2016.
The school will interview and make recommendations for about 24 teachers and administrators this year. They must be certified and hired through Prince George's County Public Schools but don't have to live in the county.
Classes would not exceed 25 students, Kurum said.
"We need smaller schools," he said. "It's hard to have the best learning system in big schools where nobody knows each other."
Kurum said the school will also strive to involve parents by conducting personal home visits and including a parent on the five-person board to monitor the school's academic progress.
Like other Prince George's County public charter schools, CMIT would receive a per pupil allowance of about $8,000 each year, Kurum said. He said the school has also already received $550,000 during two years in capital startup funds from the state.
Families will be selected via lottery and notified by April 4. Kurum said as of Friday almost 150 parents applied for sixth grade and 105 for seventh grade.