Charter School Could Be Coming To Woodhaven

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

A proposed charter school in Woodhaven has some residents concerned about how it could affect their neighborhood.

Circle Academy Charter School is hoping to open a charter school at 85-27 91st St. in Woodhaven, the site of a church that was abandoned two years ago. The school would lease out the building for the 2015-16 school year before moving to its permanent location at 75-14 Jamaica Ave., also in Woodhaven.

A charter school has been proposed to open at a currently abandoned church in Woodhaven. Photo by Luis Gronda

A charter school has been proposed to open at a currently abandoned church in Woodhaven. Photo by Luis Gronda

According to an informational handout given by CACS, the school will have students from grades K to five. The kids will be enrolled in phases year by year. During its first year, it will host a kindergarten class of 88 students and a first grade class of 66 students.

Each year that follows, they will integrate a new grade into the school. The school is slated to open in August 2015, according to the handout.

The topic of the school brought a heated debate and discussion when mentioned at last week’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting.

Many residents raised questions and concerns about the school, but CACS was not present at the meeting to discuss their plans. WRBA’s president, Martin Colberg, said the group was scheduled to appear at the meeting, but were forced to cancel at the last minute.

“We have two good public schools here, PS 60 and PS 97. We don’t need a charter school,” said Vincent Amabile Jr., a Woodhaven resident. “It’s going to waste a lot of money. Why don’t you take the money and invest it in PS 60 and PS 97?”

Other residents were concerned about what kind of children will be accepted into the school, wondering if they would prioritize kids from the local area, and if there is a traffic plan for the area.

Michael Estep, a spokesman for CACS, said the school would only be at the 91st Street location for one year. They leased to open the school for one year before moving into the Jamaica Avenue location for the 2016-2017 school year. A pre-k/kindergarten daycare program will occupy that space when they leave, according to Estep. The program’s opening was delayed for one year, he said.

“When we heard it was available, we began negotiating to lease the building,” Estep said.

Regarding the students that would go to the proposed charter school, he said it is decided by public lottery that is drawn by non-school personnel.

The school is not set in stone, according to Estep. They are required to send in their full application to the State Dept. of Education by March 28. After that, they will interview CACS about their proposal and hold a public town hall in the neighborhood before approving or denying their application.

Estep said they will continue dialogue with the community and plan on attending WRBA’s meeting next month.
“Just because we apply on the 28th, doesn’t mean we’ll stop our public meetings,” he said.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.