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.
The founders of Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter School envisioned a public, tuition-free dual-language school that would be academically rigorous for its students. The goal was to open up new worlds and new opportunities for the children. Their unique curriculum includes intensive instruction in the Hebrew language. Since opening a year and a half ago in the fall of 2013, their vision is a reality.
The school serves about 220 students in grades K-2, but the school’s charter allows for them to grow to K-5. The school is a mix of primarily white, black and Hispanic students who come from all over the city – the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and as far away as Riverdale. The school says there’s a great demand for the kind of academics provided at Harlem Hebrew Language Academy.
“Harlem is such a place of change. We wanted the children to learn about the community, who settles here, and why,” said Head of School Robin Natman. “We are lucky to have a specialized curriculum developed in partnership with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Our students learn about immigration and migration through the lens of Harlem.”
The school is a dual-language, partial immersion school, which means 40% of the day is taught in Hebrew. Some subjects, such a social studies, are taught in both languages- English and Hebrew and includes curriculum that explores Israeli culture and history alongside other cultures. The children receive gym class and music class every day. Some of the unique classes they receive are chess and Israeli dance, which are offered once a week. The curriculum also emphasizes service learning as a way of teaching values of social responsibility and respecting difference.
The school emphasizes the importance of students learning another language. Research shows that children gain academic advantages when they begin foreign language learning at a young age.
Like all of the charter schools whose buildings are in private space, Harlem Hebrew Language Academy pays rent without any state facilities aid.
Natman said, “All the money that we are forced to use for rent takes away from money we can use for students. This is money we could be using to provide more for our students. If we had facilities funding, the money could go directly into the classrooms.”
Natman’s message to lawmakers is: “Facilities funding should be fair and equitable. We are fortunate to be in private space but we should not be denied these funds. Public schools should be treated fairly no matter where they are located.”
HHLA students sing "Let It Snow"
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