Walcott praises new Elmhurst charter aimed at students learning English

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

A new charter middle school in Elmhurst aimed at helping children to learn English as a second language celebrated its first 30 days Friday with a ribbon-cutting and visit from city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

“It’s a huge milestone for us as a new school and a new community,” said Jesse Tang, principal of Central Queens Academy Charter School, at 55-30 Junction Blvd.

After months of planning, the institution opened to its first class of about 100 fifth-graders Aug. 27. An additional grade will be added next year and another after that. The founders said they had wanted to build a school in District 24, the most crowded and one of the most diverse districts in the city, that would specialize in teaching the students English and preparing them for college.

“This school was a great design because it focused on the needs of the community,” said Susan Miller Barker, executive director of the State University of New York Charter Schools Institute.

The academy is operating on a five-year performance contract overseen by SUNY.

District 24 encompasses Elmhurst, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Sunnyside, as well as parts of Corona, Jackson Heights and Woodside.

To cap the first month of schooling, Walcott, Central Queens Academy Charter School officials and 10-year-old student Sandra Kwateng of LeFrak City cut the ribbon. Sandra was chosen for being an excellent student, a good teammate and a leader.

“She’s a perfect girl,” her father George Kwateng said. “She understands what school is and she does what they ask her to do.”

Inside the school, the academy students performed chants from Boston University; University of California, Los Angeles; and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Walcott then told the students how proud he was of them. He told them that the truck drivers passing by the ribbon-cutting smiled and waved, clearly proud of the school.

“This represents to me the best of New York City,” the chancellor said.

Central Queens Academy runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each school day with after-school classes until 6 p.m. The school features longer literacy and math classes and incorporates English-language instruction throughout all classes.

“Our idea was to start small and build something very unique and powerful,” Tang said.

Students said they were happy to be part of the school.

“It teaches us to be ready for the future,” said 10-year-old student Gianny Guzman.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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