Watershed Charter School will provisionally be granted charter to operate in Baltimore County

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

A new charter school may open in Baltimore County as long as it can find a space to operate within the next two years.

Watershed Public Charter School was given a boost Tuesday afternoon when the Maryland State School Board reversed a decision by the local board to deny the school a charter to operate.

In its opinion released Tuesday, the state school board said the reason for denying Watershed a charter created a dilemma.

The board had voted against giving the school a charter because it had not signed a lease for a facility to house the school. Watershed’s leaders said they couldn’t sign a lease or get a bank loan to renovate the space until the school had a charter to operate.

The state school board said the county school system had put the school in an impossible situation — without the financing they couldn’t get a charter but without the charter they couldn’t get the financing.

The state board ordered the school system to give Watershed a charter to operate, but said it could deny the charter later if it failed to find a facility and secure the financing.

“We are thrilled to move forward and ready to get to work on building our community and our school, said Jessie Lehson, one of the founders. She said the school wants to continue working with the school system and all of its supporters.

The founders of the proposed Watershed Public Charter School say they want to open a school that would provide students in kindergarten through eighth grade with a curriculum that emphasizes hands-on learning, creative expression and outdoor experiences. They envision a school in northwest Baltimore County with a sustainable, working farm where children learn about plants and animals, and how food is harvested.

Watershed would be only the second charter school to open in the county. Charter schools are publicly funded and privately operated schools. In Maryland, a charter school must get approval from the local school board to operate.

“BCPS has not yet seen the opinion from the state board of education and will await guidance from the Board of Education of Baltimore County,” said Brandon Oland, a Baltimore County spokesman.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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