Library goes book to the future

Staffers at the MaST Charter School have good reas­on to be wowed by their new lib­rary and me­dia cen­ter. Its tech­no­logy is a won­der to be­hold.

Mast Charter School holds an open house for the new three-story lib­rary and me­dia cen­ter at­tached to the school build­ing on Fri­day, Septem­ber 15, 20111, Phil­adelphia, Pa. The lib­rary has a col­lec­tion of books, dif­fer­ent com­puter and read­ing areas, as well as a big screen built in­to the ground to pro­ject video clips. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

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 twar­

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