- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) got a firsthand look last week at St. Charles High School, calling it a “jewel for the state of Maryland.”
Charles County School Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill announced at a school board meeting earlier last month that Franchot, who sits on the state’s Board of Public Works, asked to visit one of the projects for which the school system is requesting funding.
School staff recommended Franchot look at St. Charles High School, as the gymnasium heating and air-conditioning project at La Plata High has not begun yet. The Interagency Committee on School Construction recommended $344,000 for the La Plata project.
The school system requested funds for St. Charles High School construction, and the IAC recommended $6.1 million.
School staff appealed for the total remainder of the state’s share of the project, a little more than $12 million.
St. Charles High was the only appeal staff made at the state’s annual opportunity for school systems to present their case for funding at a meeting of the Board of Public Works — made up of the governor, state treasurer and state comptoller — last month in Annapolis. The event informally is known as the “begathon.”
School spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said county education officials only made that one appeal to the board with the intent that the funds could reduce the financial burden on the Charles County commissioners for the next couple of years to give the county the ability to fund school renovations.
The school system is in the process of having a study done to determine which schools require renovations and in what order the projects should be completed.
Hill, school staff and three county commissioners walked Franchot around the new high school explaining the green features and programs, the school’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math programs — STEM — and advanced technologies available to students and the community.
The four-story school will be equipped with a digital classroom — a multiuse dome theater featuring high-resolution, 3-D computer graphics and surround sound — and science on a sphere.
When entering the school, students and visitors will see an area containing a large globe suspended in the air, which, through projections, can show real-time weather maps, oceans and other geographical data, along with options to see recorded satellite videos from space.
During Franchot’s tour, Hill described the digital classroom as a mix of features from a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
Walking inside the unfinished digital classroom, Steve Andritz, project analyst and program manager for the school system, said as far as what students can explore and see via the digital classroom, “the possibilities are endless.” He gave an example of students being able to take a journey through the human body, and the images would appear as though students were traveling through the bloodstream.
Hill said the classroom and the sphere are in the school system curriculum and that every student in the system will have the opportunity to take field trips to use the classoom.
“This is a jewel for our community,” Hill said.
Franchot said he couldn’t wait to get back to the school once the digital classroom is completed.
He said the technology and the vision of the school connecting the curriculum with environmental areas and issues is exciting and forward thinking.
Staff walked Franchot through the main level of the school, emphasizing the polished concrete floors, open spaces designed for student and faculty collaboration and large classrooms also designed with collaboration areas.
Andritz said some areas outside of classrooms will have technology such as computerized wallboards available to students for group work.
Andritz highlighted some of the green portions of the school including the 400 wells under the baseball and softball fields for geothermal heating and the school’s green roof — a 25,000-square-foot portion of the roof that has 45,000 plants, helping keep it shaded and cool — and the school’s water-efficient landscaping.
The school on Piney Church Road in Waldorf is scheduled to open with grades 9, 10 and 11 in August.