A Greenbelt school is the front-runner to become the site for Maryland's "super high school" for math and science, a proposed residential institution that would be among a handful nationwide and the first of its kind in the Washington area.
A statewide site selection committee has ranked the Robert Goddard Middle School, along a high-tech corridor on Good Luck Road in northern Prince George's County, as its first choice for the planned Maryland School for Science and Technology, a government source said yesterday.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer has not yet received an official recommendation from the group, a spokesman for the governor said. Schaefer is expected to make the final choice and forward his recommendation to the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly, which begins on Wednesday.
Prince George's business and government leaders had lobbied hard for the school, offering to donate the Goddard building as well as about 10 adjacent acres.
"We think it'll further enhance our position as a center for high-tech research," Tim Ayers, spokesman for County Executive Parris Glendening, said yesterday.
Similar schools across the country have buoyed local economies by attracting businesses. That was the case in North Carolina, where the first state residential high-tech school opened in 1980.
The Goddard school would be converted into classrooms for about 600 of the state's best students, who would receive free room and board in dormitories constructed on the adjacent land. Total costs have been estimated at $20 million. Similar schools operate at a cost of more than $3 million annually.
The governor plans to enroll the first class in the fall of 1989.
Prince George's school spokesman Brian J. Porter said that the county could turn over the facility this summer and transfer 700 students to other schools in the Greenbelt/Lanham area. A plan to donate as well the Catherine Reed Elementary school site, adjacent to the Goddard school, was dropped after protests from the community.
In lobbying for the school, county officials had highlighted its proximity to the College Park campus of the University of Maryland and boasted that it is within a five-mile radius of 123 technical firms including Digital, Sperry and Motorola.
"Obviously, we showed the site is across the street from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center," said Jeannette Ferguson of the county's Economic Development Corporation, which put together Prince George's proposal.
The Baltimore Evening Sun reported yesterday that the runners-up for the site are a privately owned tract in Towson and the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Baltimore.
Not all have been enthusiastic about the school. Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties did not vie for the school. Critics there and throughout the state, many of them educators and legislators, have said the $20 million price tag would drain resources from the state's 24 school districts. At the same time, they said, it would duplicate highly rated math and science programs already in place.
The school would offer college-level courses in the sciences, mathematics and computer science as well as traditional high school extracurricular activities. Admission would be competitive, based in part on grades, test scores and recommendations.