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Published: 9/28/2006

City drops anchor on Maritime Academy

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Marazon Marazon
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Kameron Tatum, 14, studies at the briefly opened Maritime Academy of Toledo on South St. Clair Street.
Kameron Tatum, 14, studies at the briefly opened Maritime Academy of Toledo on South St. Clair Street.
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A new maritime-themed charter school opened yesterday in Toledo's Warehouse District, but just hours after children left for the day, city employees posted a sign forbidding the school to continue operating.

Tom Kroma, Toledo's director of neighborhoods, said the Maritime Academy of Toledo does not have a needed special-use permit to operate at 44 South St. Clair Street.

"They have made application, but that will not come before the Toledo Plan Commission until Oct. 17," Mr. Kroma said. "It's kind of odd that they would have been starting up there [before approval]."

Twenty-seven students started school yesterday in a renovated loft-style apartment above the Downtown Latte coffee shop.

Renee Marazon, operator of the academy, said she was shocked when two men from the city's building inspection division arrived with a "Do Not Occupy" sticker for her door.

The students started the school year at Victory Academy in southwest Toledo, which is also operated by Ms. Marazon, and moved yesterday to the new charter school the day after it received final approval from its sponsor, the Franklin County Educational Service Center.

Ms. Marazon said the school's plan eventually was to move to a street-level space currently occupied by a hardware store. The apartment would be retained as office space.

According to state law, the charter school is required to open by Sept. 30.

The Maritime Academy originally was planned to start last year, but it wasn't chosen in a state lottery for new charter schools.

"This school has been through so much," Ms. Marazon said. "Now it seems like the city doesn't want to help these kids."

She plans to have a bus take the children, who are in grades seven through nine, back to Victory Academy today.

Kathy Steingraber, executive director of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said all the tenants in the building and nearby business owners were thrilled to have the charter school move in.

"They see it as a wonderful thing and new customers," Ms. Steingraber said.

Ms. Steingraber added that the developers of the nearby River West condominiums have been the only people to object to the school.

Before learning of the occupancy issue, the school's students and two full-time teachers conducted classes in the nontraditional small-class atmosphere.

Among their activities for the day was a trip to Swan Creek.

"We will have a sonar lab, radar, and weather station, and we are even working on a partnership with the Coast Guard," Ms. Marazon said. "Everything about the Great Lakes, from science to the literature and poetry, will be integrated into lessons."

The children were scheduled to begin today with a boat ride on the Maumee River to view construction of the Veterans' Glass City Skyway, the new I-280 bridge.

Bart Anderson, superintendent of the Franklin County Educational Service Center, the sponsor of the charter school, previously said the agency choose to sponsor the school because of its nautical focus.

Mr. Anderson could not be reached yesterday.

The school received $200,000 in startup money. Some of that money was used to purchase furniture and secure the lease for its location.

Charter schools, which are public schools that often are privately operated, receive state funding determined by the number of students enrolled.

Many are operated by for-profit management companies such as the Leona Group of East Lansing, Mich., or White Hat Management in Akron.

Many charter schools are focused toward a specific field, such as the Toledo School for the Arts near downtown Toledo or the Wildwood Environmental Academy in Maumee.

Ms. Marazon said her new charter school is the only one of its kind in Ohio.

Victory Academy, 3319 Nebraska Ave., opened during the 2004-2005 school year. It has about 120 students.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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