Fourth graders, left to right, Denver Austin, Akira Harper and Symone Browning play during their gym class at the Patterson Park Charter School.
Fourth graders, left to right, Denver Austin, Akira Harper and Symone Browning play during their gym class at the Patterson Park Charter School. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore school board voted Tuesday night to approve a new charter school in a growing part of the city.

Patterson Park Public Charter School will replicate its highly sought-after program at a second location in Southeast Baltimore, with a goal of eventually enrolling 540 more kids between kindergarten and eighth grade and exposing them to hands-on instruction that integrates the arts and nature. They plan to open what will be called Clay Hill Public Charter in the Bayview neighborhood in 2020.

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Clay Hill, like Patterson Park Public, will serve a large population of immigrant students — a demographic that’s rapidly growing, even while overall public school enrollment declines.

District officials said Patterson Park Public’s operator presented a “comprehensive and thorough plan” for opening the second school.

While the board unanimously approved the Clay Hill proposal, they denied Green Street Academy’s request to add an elementary school and become the only K-12 program in the city. Right now, the West Baltimore school serves about 850 kids in sixth through 12th grades. They asked to add 300 elementary seats, noting they wanted the opportunity to shape kids’ futures before middle school.

One of Baltimore's most sought-after schools wants to open a second location. Will the school board OK it?

Patterson Park Public Charter School is seeking to capitalize on its recent success by getting approval to open a similar school in Bayview.

Angela Alvarez, executive director of the district's Office of New Initiatives, said Green Street’s charter operator didn’t demonstrate that another elementary school is needed in that part of the city, which is losing students to the point that the district is planning to close nearby schools. Green Street also didn’t demonstrate it had an “effective plan in place” to educate younger kids as opposed to middle and high schoolers, Alvarez said.

“These are fatal flaws,” she said.

About 20 percent of the city’s roughly 80,000 students attend one of 31 charters, which are publicly funded campuses given more autonomy than traditional public schools.

Last year, the commissioners voted to approve just one out of six charter school applications. As with this round, the only application to earn approval was for a replication of an already successful city charter.

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