"None of them knew the color of the sky." Those words from Stephen Crane's excellent short story "The Open Boat," about a shipwrecked crew contending with a violent storm off the coast of Florida, could describe the leaders of the Capital Region Maritime Center in the last year or so. So busy were they trying to find a new tenant for the center, so worried about surviving, that they had no time to look up.
Yesterday the waves died down and sun came out, as those leaders announced not only a new tenant but a real partner: a new private middle school called the Saratoga Academy for Leadership and Maritime Programs. The school will open in September and be run by the same people who run a 235-student private elementary school in Clifton Park, called the Saratoga Academy for the Arts and Sciences. So far, 21 students are enrolled in the new school (all from the elementary school ), and the organizers hope to have a total of 50 in the first year and more in the future.
As Chet Watson, the Maritime Center's board president, said yesterday, it will be wonderful to hear children's voices there again. Capital Region BOCES ran a vocational training program for at-risk kids at the center from 2000 until 2011, when it moved the program to Rotterdam.
Center officials have long dreamed of an interdisciplinary educational program that would teach kids about the environment, history, culture, maritime technologies and boat building, focusing on and making use of the Erie Canal and Mohawk River. They also wanted to have programs for the community at night and other times school wasn't in session, similar to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont. But its arrangement with BOCES didn't allow it.
Now the center will be a partner in developing such an interdisciplinary program for the school , and allowed and encouraged to use the beautiful building for other things as well, including programs for at-risk kids (its original purpose). Meanwhile, the $90,000-plus annual rent will allow it to keep paying back the federal loan it took out to build the facility.
It's an exciting time for the Maritime Center -- a good kind of exciting.