Update on St. Charles High School

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A lot of exciting things are happening in St. Charles, and perhaps most exciting of all is the construction of the new St. Charles High School on Piney Church Road, next to the stadium for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. The 1,600 seat school is scheduled to open in August, 2014. To get an update on the school, we interviewed Katie O'Malley-Simpson, spokesperson for Charles County Public Schools.

Q: Katie, can you tell us a little about the new St. Charles High School – the size and main features?
St. Charles High School is under construction and is scheduled to open to students in time for the Fall 2014 school year at a location adjacent to the Regency Furniture Stadium off of Piney Church Road.  It has state-rated capacity for 1,600 students, sits on a 99-acre site donated by The St. Charles Companies and will encompass about 269,000 square feet of learning space on four floors with 72 teaching stations.  The school will serve as an anchor in the steadily growing planned community of St. Charles and will offer opportunities to students and the community that include environmental and natural resource management, technology, and current issues related to these fields of study.

Q: How long has it been since a new high school was built in Charles County?
St. Charles High School will be the first high school opened in Charles County since North Point in 2005 and is the 7th high school in Charles County.

Q: What will students and parents notice in terms of technology applied in the new school?
St. Charles High School will be one of the most sophisticated high schools in the country. Innovative features and programs include:
A digital classroom. This classroom is equipped to provide learning experiences that better prepare students for higher education and careers while enhancing critical thinking and literacy skills needed in the development of 21st century skills. The digital classroom contains state-of-the-art technology and is a multi-use dome theater that uses high resolution, three-dimensional graphics and surround sound to enhance learning experiences for students. The dome theater is a tool that gives teachers the option of advancing lessons from lecture and drill to interactive classes using technology and three-dimensional visuals. The classroom has space for 150-180 students. The dome can serve as a planetarium, but its use extends beyond astronomy. The classroom also provides opportunities for lessons that build on information available from teachers and textbooks. Response pads and hands-on use of technology allow students and teachers to develop, plan and present assignments. The digital classroom will raise the level of science and math curriculum, as well as provide learning opportunities in other subjects and fine arts. The digital classroom is a natural next step for Charles County Public Schools. Already, the system’s 35 schools are wireless and teachers use distance learning, streaming video and electronic class materials. The digital classroom is a technological teaching tool that will be available not only to the students at St. Charles High School, but to all CCPS students.

Science on a Sphere in St. Charles High School will feature innovative new technology for students. Science on a Sphere is a room-sized globe that provides students with visual instruction about science, the Earth and the environment. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), Science on a Sphere technology uses computers and video projectors to display animated, 3-dimensional data onto a six-foot diameter sphere. Students can learn how specific environmental scenarios, such as storms, climate change and ocean currents, have on Earth and the atmosphere. The technology provides students with a visually compelling way to learn about science and it will be used daily at St. Charles High School; for Charles County Public Schools students who visit as part of their science classes; and for visitors at scheduled events for the community.

Telepresence is videoconferencing technology that uses large screens to create a virtual classroom in more than one location. It can be used to teleconference with students in other schools, to connect a teacher to more than one classroom, to provide staff development and for other situations. Telepresence classrooms are located in each Charles County high school and instructional offerings include Advanced Placement (AP) courses, in-service activities, system wide administrative meetings and as testing sites.

The school is also being built to LEED specifications. These specifications will be met with the implementation of the following green features:
i.    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver designation;
ii.    partially green (living-vegetated) roof;
iii.    geothermal heating and cooling;
iv.    daylighting;
v.    automatic light control systems, occupancy sensors;
vi.    Energy Star-rated equipment;
vii.    solar preheat for domestic hot water;
viii.    water efficient landscaping;
ix.    reflective cool roof systems;
x.    water efficient landscaping, pervious paving;
xi.    high recycled content for interior finishes;
xii.    reduction of light pollution;
xiii.    energy management system, building commissioning; and
xiv.    enhanced classroom acoustics.

Q: What neighborhoods in St. Charles will be served by the high school?
Charles County is working now to create the attendance zone.

Q: Can you describe the athletic facilities at the new school?
Athletic features include a football stadium with an eight-lane track; bleacher seating for 1,500 home/500 visitors; 14 fields including football, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse – enough so that each team has a practice and varsity field, and eight tennis courts.

Q: Are there any special programs offered at St. Charles High School?
St. Charles High School will offer the same program of study available to all Charles County high school students and all courses offered will meet requirements for students to obtain a Maryland State Board of Education diploma. Students can pursue a scholar’s course of study, enroll in Advanced Placement courses and participate in after-school activities, sports and clubs. In addition to standard curriculum and courses, St. Charles High School will offer programs through environmentally infused instruction. These programs will offer opportunities to students as well as communities throughout Charles County and Maryland that include environmental and natural resource management, technology, and current issues related to these fields of study. Design aspects of St. Charles High School focus on the impact of today's environment on natural resources such as air, soil, water, land, fish, wildlife and plants. Students will have environmental work experience, mentorship, internship and job shadow opportunities that can results in articulation agreements for college credit, work force development and industry credentials.