by Joe Shahen
Earlier this year, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, located in Albany, received a New York State Stimulus Fund grant that allowed the school to start work on some much-needed additions and repairs to their facilities, including construction on a brand new library, along with kitchen repairs and playground changes.
Opened in 2002, the Boys school serves 270 kids in kindergarten through 4th grade. Brighter Choice applied for the stimulus grant at the start of the 2012-13 school year and was approved in January. For their efforts, they received $200,000, $100,000 of which has gone towards setting up the library and media center.
“Exposing our scholars to language and early literacy learning is important to closing the achievement gap,” Principal Karen Mclean said. “Our library will allow our scholars to be exposed to great quantities of print and meaningful language opportunities during their crucial elementary school years here with us.”
With the construction slated to finish by the end of the month, the library will become an important tool in Brighter Choice’s curriculum next school year. Throughout the school’s classes in 2nd through 4th grade, there is an Accountable Independent Reading period where students read for 45 minutes. They are also required to read for 30 minutes at home after school each day. The new library will be a valuable resource for students on both fronts.
In addition to the new library, Brighter Choice is also using $90,000 from the grant to redesign their kitchen, which had previously not been set up for food preparation. Prior to the redesign, Senior Services of Albany prepped food provided to students, but now it will be able to be made on site. The remaining grant money is being used for minor playground safety upgrades.
“Schools are always looking for opportunities to grow and develop their staff and facility; therefore there is a need for funding that allows schools, both charter and public, the opportunity to do so,” Mclean said of the importance of the state’s grant program.
Unfortunately, many of New York’s charter schools must rely on this kind of one-time grant funding for facilities because public charter schools receive significantly less public funding than traditional public schools. Last month, NECSN worked with the New York City Charter School Center and the Colorado League of Charter Schools to publish a state-wide charter facilities report which found that only half of responding schools have libraries. The lack of equitable funding from the state for charters has placed an unnecessary burden on these schools’ budgets to fully provide for facilities (read the full report here).
The projects should be completed by the end of July, just in time for the start of the new school year.