Parents and teachers from the high-performing Bronx Charter School for Better Learning praised the city’s proposal to open a second charter school inside a Wakefield public school building at a public hearing on February 9.
Patience Aboagye, whose daughter attends the 12-year-old charter school on Baychester Avenue praised the kindergarten through fifth grade school’s excellent record. In the most recent New York City Department of Education report, the school with 419 mostly black and Latino students scored higher than the state average on both English Language Arts and Math exams. “We need to replicate that in this district,” said Aboagye. According to Better Learning data, the school has 2,300 applicants, with only 121 seats open.
The proposed site on Gunther Avenue houses two middle schools – J.H.S. 144 Michelangelo and Pelham Gardens Middle School. No parents or community members from the existing schools spoke up at the meeting. In a later interview, the principal of Pelham Gardens Middle School, Denise Williams, said that any school would be fortunate to occupy space in the school building.
According to an assessment by New York City Department of Education, J.H.S. 144 and Pelham Gardens together use 24 rooms more than necessary. The principal of Better Learning, Shubart Jacobs, said that the school is not seeking to take away space from the two middle schools: “What we are seeking to do is to provide quality education, so our district can improve,” he said. “I look forward to the day when we are here with the co-location.” If the proposal is approved, the 24 rooms will be allocated to the kindergarten students of the new Better Learning in 2015-2016 academic year.
Many of the students at the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning are Hispanic, African-American or come from families who are recent immigrants from Jamaica. Eighty percent of the students come from low-income families.
According to DOE, if the proposal is approved the school building is projected to reach up to 98 percent of its capacity by the 2020-2021 school year; currently, the building is at 67 percent capacity. The final decision on the proposal is scheduled for Sept. 2015.