District 24 blasts plan for new charter school

Suyin So and Udai Tambar present their plan for a charter school to a panel of Community Education Council District 24 members, parents and teachers. Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

A charter school wants to move into District 24, but community education officials said there is not even enough room to fit the current public schools.

Suyin So and Udai Tambar presented their plans for the Central Queens Academy Charter School at a May 4 meeting to Community Education Council District 24, teachers and a handful of parents.

But they did not get a warm welcome from some council members.

“My personal opinion is that you might consider going to another district,” said Nick Comaianni of CECD 24 after the presentation.

District 24 — which encompasses parts of Corona, Elmhurst, Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood — is supposed to have 7,000 seats, Comaianni said. But because there is little space to build new schools, only 4,500 of those seats exist.

“Our biggest problem is finding sites to build these seats,” Comaianni said. “If there is any space to be had in District 24, we want it.”

Representatives from the charter school said they plan on finding a small space, such as the basement of a church, to house the initial grade of the school, which is slated to offer fifth- through eighth-grades.

But as the school grows, So said the charter school could actually help reduce overcrowding in the district.

That is because charter schools can move into spaces that public schools cannot. For example, the charter school would seek out spaces like private and Catholic schools.

Those schools might not have gymnasiums or built-in science labs, which means that a public school could not use the space.

“We see ourselves as adding capacity to the district,” Tambar said.

And that is a prospect that interested Brian Rafferty, another member of CECD 24.

“I think this is something that will offer a higher level of education and offer [children] an opportunity that they wouldn’t have in public schools,” Rafferty said. “I think that could be an advantage.”

Some parents in the crowd also expressed interest in the school, like Angelina Hernandez, who complained that the quality of education at PS 91 had plummeted.

So and Tambar do not currently know where the school will be located, but hope to be located in the Elmhurst or Corona areas and accept students on a lottery basis from throughout the borough.

In addition, they hope to base the school on The Renaissance Charter School, at 35-59 81st St. in Jackson Heights, and cater to English as a Second Language students. About 30 percent of students would be ESL, and the curriculum would focus heavily on math and reading classes.

But aside from that, the pair could not get more specific in their plans.

“I don’t want to hear half a presentation,” Comaianni said after the presentation. “What’s the business plan?”

Comments from the May 4 hearing were taken down by a representative of the city Department of Education and then passed on to the State University of New York Charter School Institute, which will vote on whether the school should open.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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