The 30 Schools in 30 Days project will highlight a different New York State charter school each day, featuring each school's successes, and the challenges that come from being denied access to state facilities funding. Perhaps most important, each school leader has a message for state lawmakers in Albany: please find a solution to the facilities funding problem and allow ALL of the state's charter schools access to building aid this year.
Several years ago, there were about 1,000 children sitting on a waiting list to get into a charter school in Queens called Our World Neighborhood Charter School. Seeing this huge need – and knowing that tens of thousands more children were trying to get a seat in New York City charter schools – the founders of Academy of the City Charter School took action and opened the school four years ago in 2011.
Academy of the City serves 360 students in grades K-4. The school will grow to serve K-5. Seventy-three percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
The school is “progressive and hands-on” according to Principal Richard Lee.
“We use primary sources to teach the kids and that includes field trips, visiting museums, and sharing information. This type of approach works for a lot of students and connects them to the community.”
“We also have a big focus on music, arts drama and physical education.”
Academy of the City offers small class sizes of 29 students or fewer and offers specialized and increased support for English Language Learners (ELL).
There’s a big demand for seats in the school. There are 730 kids on the waitlist and Lee says there are about 1,000 applications for 84 seats each year.
Like all of the New York City charter schools in private space, Academy of the City faces challenges in how to put a roof over its students heads.
Lee said, “We have our own building which we lease from the church but we are trying to get it ready for 21st century learning. It’s a huge cost. We spend over $600,000 in rent – but we have done more than $400,000 in renovations here.”
Lee said there are things he wants to provide for the students and the teachers but they are often forced to hold off on because of building costs.
“We have made it work, but it’s a challenge,” he said.
Lee said he would love to hire more teachers, continue to expand their at-risk services, and expand their arts and drama programs. Currently, the drama program is done by a volunteer, and the school had to cut its dance program. Lee also said he wants to put more resources, like Smart Boards, into the classrooms.
Lee’s message for lawmakers is: “We need equitable funding for all schools. It would make a huge impact on our school and the 40 percent of charter schools in New York City who don’t get any help with their facilities funding. We’re calling on state lawmakers to level the playing field for all charter schools this year.”
Academy of the City students talk about their favorite subjects
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