SOMERS POINT — The city's Planning Board gave unanimous approval Wednesday night for the Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts to build four classrooms and an auditorium.

Jerry Klause, the school's Board of Education president, thanked the planners and the city afterward, saying it was part of the good, nine-year relationship. "You were welcoming to us when we were unknown, and we weren't always welcomed."

Wednesday's hearing was largely pro-forma. As a public school, explained its attorney J. Scott Abbott, Charter Tech is largely exempt from most local zoning regulations. The state Board of Education instead gives final approval.

The high school currently has 235 students, but the district has a pending application in front of the state Board of Education to expand the number of students it educates to 400.

The school expects the state will approve the expansion and is planning on using the funds from the extra students to pay for the $5 million expansion.

The school is seeking to build the four classrooms first, including a technology center. It would break ground later this year, Abbott said, with completion before the 2011-2012 school year.

The 488-seat 17,000-square foot theater south of the current building would be later.

The school was looking forward to the auditorium, Principal Janice Strigh said. It would allow more community events to take place that the students could help with. She anticipated Somers Point schools using the facility, as well as other local groups, such as dance groups that could hold recitals.

The auditorium would also allow the school to expand its options, she said. The school has held fundraisers and other events in its cafeteria.

The school is also seeking to build an 89-space parking lot east of the current building, along with an 84-foot-by-84-foot multiple sport activity area, with removable basketball courts. The school would use the sport activity area as overflow parking.

The board recommended changes that expanded the parking.

The school would also extend the fence that currently separates the Sonic Drive-In restaurant at the property from the school. The black chainlink fence would extend almost to the street and along the side of the property.

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046