After fund-raising delays and struggles to find a building, the nation's first charter high school devoted to preparing students for careers in hospitality management will open this fall, District and hospitality industry officials announced yesterday.

Marriott Hospitality High School will be a public charter school located at 410 Eighth St. NW. The school will offer a concentrated curriculum and opportunities for summer employment at local hotels as well as more traditional classes for as many as 200 students. Funded by a million-dollar grant from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the school bears the name of the Bethesda-based hotel conglomerate.

In the Washington area, working in tourism offers job skills for students who might not continue their education beyond high school or those who may consider enrolling in one of the 220 hospitality programs offered by colleges nationwide.

The hospitality industry, which employs more than 10 million people across the country, is the fastest-growing sector of the D.C. economy and the second-largest source of private employment. The hospitality industry supplied 175,000 jobs in the Washington area and 75,000 jobs in the District in 1997, according to the Greater Washington Hospitality Association.

"There are literally hundreds of different jobs available in this industry," said Lalia Rach, dean of the Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Administration at New York University.

Marriott High is one of 10 new public charter schools authorized to open in the District in September.

Charter schools, like regular public schools, are funded by tax dollars. However, they can operate independent of the traditional school system bureaucracy. Some, like Marriott, offer a specific theme or link to a particular industry. Others offer a general curriculum but may promise longer school days, more computers or smaller class sizes than standard public schools.

A total of about 3,600 D.C. students attended 19 charter schools this year, making the city's congressionally mandated, three-year-old charter program the fastest-growing in the country.

Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott said he chose to become involved with the charter high school because "it's a win-win situation for us. Really qualified people will come out of there who can move up the ladder and the chain of command quickly. They'll have the skills we look for."

Marriott High graduates will be far ahead of other students wishing to pursue a career in the same industry, according to Rach.

"These kids are going to begin at a much younger age and they'll have the opportunity to move up in a quicker fashion," Rach said. "They'll have broader opportunities because they'll have a set of skills they can take into the workplace and they'll find where they fit in."

Typically, a hotel has more than 80 job descriptions. Among those positions are human resources director, marketing director, food and beverage manager and front office supervisor--with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $80,000 annually.

But parents often worry that a career in hospitality equates to low-paying jobs with minimal necessary skills. Flossie Johnson, the school's principal, hopes Marriott High will squash such stereotypes as women making beds, men carrying luggage and underappreciated workers waiting tables. Instead, the school will place the students in a college preparatory environment and present them with dozens of career choices, from payroll and scheduling to catering and management, she said.

Marriott High will offer a year-round program, including summer school and summer employment. Students will be required to successfully complete a minimum of eight credits in hospitality management courses.

"A program like this practically writes itself," said Emily Vetter, president of the D.C. Hotel Association. She added that students will be encouraged to attend either a two-year or four-year college upon graduation. "There will be some students who don't go to college, and that's fine, too. They can climb up the ladder with the right skills and do just as well. You don't need a four-year degree to do that."

Staff writer Debbi Wilgoren contributed to this report.

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Chartered by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, Fall 1999:

Edison-Friendship PCS*

Blow-Pierce Campus

20th and Gales streets NE

544-6672

Marriott Hospitality High

410 Eighth St. NW

312-2007

Robert Louis Johnson Arts & Technology

53rd and Blaine streets NE

723-8162

Meridian International PCS

Address undetermined

363-1118

Southeast Academy of Scholastic Excellence

627 Milwaukee Plaza SE

561-5601

Chartered by the D.C. Board of Education, Fall 1999:

Booker T. Washington

Address undetermined

328-6236

Hyde Leadership School

Address undetermined

234-3124

Ideal Academy

Rock Creek Church and Riggs roads NW

723-6008

Kwame Nkrumah International

Address undetermined

238-0009

New Vistas Preparatory

Rebaut Building

Second and Peabody streets NW

832-2700

Roots

15 Kennedy St. NW

882-5155

*Expansion of existing school program on separate campus.

CAPTION: Principal Flossie Johnson in the lobby of the building that will house Marriott Hospitality High, which she says will have a college preparatory atmosphere.