A new language-immersion charter school will be coming to eastern Baltimore County after the school board approved its application Tuesday night — a rarity for a suburban school district in Maryland.

Baltimore County Public Schools administrators have recommended the board approve Bilingual Global Citizens Public Charter School, a kindergarten through eighth grade school that would offer half of its instruction in French or Chinese.

The board approved the charter school unanimously and it’s set to open during the 2025-2026 school year, according to a public interest survey.

Right now, Baltimore County only has one charter school: Watershed Public Charter School in Milford Mill. It was approved in 2018 and is only the second charter to be approved in Baltimore County.

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Charter schools are independently operated, publicly funded schools. Under Maryland law, anyone who wants to start a charter school must apply to and be approved by a local school system’s school board. The state is considered one of the most restrictive in the country by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Unlike many other states, Maryland’s charters must employ teachers who are part of the teachers union and abide by their contract.

According to the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools, there are 50 charters in the state, with most in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.

Baltimore County Superintendent Myriam Rogers said at a Tuesday morning news conference that she can’t say why the district doesn’t have more charter schools, but she noted that charters have the opportunity to apply every year.

Coincidentally, there was a second charter school application on the table for the school board, but it was not recommended by the district.

The board decided to not move forward with the school, however, board members Maggie Litz Domanowski and Tiffany Lashawn S. Frempong disagreed. Puzzle Pieces Learning Academy Public Charter School pitched an “inclusive and empowering environment for all students, including those with special needs” in western Baltimore County, but a school system review dinged it for a lack of detail in its application.

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Board documents say the application didn’t identify certain curricula and assessments, nor did it detail the support it would provide special education students.

A glowing review was given to the application from Bilingual Global Citizens, which promises a focus on “Bilingualism and Balanced Biliteracy, College and Career Readiness, and Local and Global Learning Journeys.”

It would open with grades kindergarten through third grade and add grades in the following years. In the school’s public interest survey, it pledges to prepare students for rigorous high school programs and immerse them in the life of the communities they are studying. Students would get half their instruction in English and the other half in either Chinese or French.

“Journeys include language immersion and academic field trips to support the bilingual development of students as well as focus on global leadership opportunities,” the survey stated.

It advertised a “balanced literacy framework,” referring to a method of teaching kids to read that’s being phased out in Baltimore County. Experts and educators recommend approaches aligned with the science of reading, which is backed by brain science.

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The school now must find a building and provide “requisite documents,” like a certificate of good standing, before moving forward.

A charter school operator in Washington, D.C., called Global Citizens Public Charter School, offers a similar model with immersion in Mandarin and Spanish, but a school representative told The Banner it’s not affiliated with the charter that hopes to open in Baltimore County.

Bilingual Global Citizens would enter the scene as the school system ends its current foreign-language program for fourth and fifth graders. The system plans to add its own language-immersion program, but Rogers said Tuesday that it’s unrelated to the charter school.

The first charter school in Baltimore County opened in 2008 as Imagine Discovery Public Charter School, according to The Baltimore Sun. Parents supported it, but its students’ test scores were lower than those at other schools. It came under the authority of the county school system at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Watershed, Baltimore County’s second charter school and the only one operating in the district, also had its struggles. It was denied as a charter in 2018, The Sun wrote, but it was later reversed.

Liz Bowie contributed to this story.

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