Sophomore Dominic Pacitti, like most others at the Sept. 16 open house, was in awe of the MaST Community Charter School’s new three-story library and media center.
The futuristic MaST Information Resource Center, at 1800 E. Byberry Road, features a full video studio complete with an anchor desk, a three-dimensional printer, a high school counseling center, an infrastructure and data room and advanced computer and technology labs on the top floor.
The second-floor library boasts a floor projection area; elementary and high school classrooms; media stations for video development and research studies; research computers; Nooks; books; comfortable furniture and a fireplace; and space for a high school cafe.
The ground floor includes a learning center for small-group collaboration; an iPad-controlled board room for future meetings, video-conferencing and professional development sessions; and a space used for occupational and physical therapy and before- and after-school care.
The school has always been geared to math, science and technology, and the new center will benefit the 1,250 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
“It’s amazing,” said Pacitti, who manages the video studio control room. “I’ve been here since kindergarten, and I’m so glad I go to this school.”
MaST opened in 1999, two years after Pennsylvania passed a law creating charter schools. It was formed by parents and administrators of the old School District of Philadelphia Lincoln Cluster.
The school’s first home was in, of all places, a former bagel shop in the Academy Plaza Shopping Center, at 3216 Red Lion Road. Its two storefronts were separated by a jewelry store.
In 2000, a kindergarten and elementary school opened at four satellite campuses. Pacitti recalls starting kindergarten in a synagogue.
By March 2002, the whole operation was consolidated at its present location, a former steel-metal company warehouse.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Education Reform named MaST the national Charter School of the Year. More than 2,000 children are on a waiting list for only a handful of annual openings.
The expansion is part of a nearly $16 million bond issue.
Open house guests included state Rep. Dennis O’Brien (R-169th dist.), state Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th dist.) and banker Marty Bednarek. The first indication that the center was a special place was when guests signed in, not with a pen and paper, but on a computer.
Mike Brown sees only one negative thing about the new center.
As a senior, he’ll have only one year to experience all of its perks.
Brown is a member of the National Honor Society and student director for MaST News. He plans to study film, theater and television at either American University or New York University.
The 25-member news crew broadcasts school announcements and records sporting events, drama club productions, student projects and an occasional classroom lecture.
As director, Brown works with anchors, along with camera, sound, graphics and control operators.
“It truly is a student-run organization,” he said. “It’s all about teamwork and communicating as a unit.”
Sophomore Michael Gilbert, a cameraman, recalls that there used to be one stationary camera. Now, there are three mobile cameras and a TelePrompTer for the anchors.
“Everything here is so advanced,” he said. “It’s a great experience.”
Pat Golderer, the high school principal, hopes the MaST Television Studios can someday broadcast news, sports and weather on a cable TV channel.
“I’m pretty proud of the whole place, but to me, this is the crown jewel,” he said of the studio.
John Swoyer started at MaST in 2004 as director of information technology and was named CEO in February 2010. He credited the students and parents with helping to plan the new facility.
School instruction is divided into three parts of the campus, with kindergarten through fourth grade in one area, fifth through eighth grade in another and high school in its own space.
The older students might get the most out of the amenities, as they eye college and/or a career, but all students get to use the new center.
Initial impressions have been positive.
“Everyone loves it,” said Swoyer, adding that a Wii-based fitness center will open next month.
“We’re trying to think outside the box. We’re trying to focus on science and technology in a collaborative education for K to 12.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org