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Charter school for grades K-2 expected to open in Uniondale this fall

The Academy Charter School's middle school in Hempstead,

The Academy Charter School's middle school in Hempstead, and a view of the Academy's high school being built on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A charter school for 175 students in kindergarten through second grade is expected to open in Uniondale in September, after the operator of The Academy Charter School in Hempstead won state approval to start a similar educational institution there.

The school’s five-year charter allows expansion through the sixth grade, and officials said they eventually plan to offer instruction through eighth grade.

Officials with the charter school said they are looking for space to house The Academy Charter School-Uniondale.

“We want to make a difference,” said Wayne Haughton, The Academy’s executive director, citing the Uniondale district’s growth in enrollment. “We saw all the problems Uniondale is having in terms of overcrowding.”

The Uniondale district — one of the largest K-12 systems in Nassau County — has about 7,200 students and expects that number to rise over the next decade by at least 730. In the past five years, enrollment has increased by 940 students, or 15 percent, district officials have said.

Uniondale school officials declined to comment last week on the charter school.

In March, the district’s voters refused to authorize a $199.9 million bond issue that would have funded additional classrooms for the growing student population. If that bond issue had been approved, the district planned to discontinue use of basement classrooms and portable structures for instruction.

Local districts pay the tuition of charter students, and funding for the schools is based on the number of students they attract. Students are chosen by lottery.

The Academy is one of four charter schools on Long Island. The others are Evergreen Charter School, also in Hempstead; Roosevelt Children’s Academy; and Riverhead Charter School.

Officials at The Academy, which opened in 2009 and now serves about 1,000 students in grades K-11, learned last month that the SUNY Charter Schools Institute had approved a five-year charter for them to open the Uniondale school, with an authorization for 475 students.

The lottery to choose students is scheduled for April 4, and Uniondale residents will be given first preference. Students from other districts also are expected to enroll.

The proposed school will replicate the model developed in Hempstead, and will provide opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering, art and math, educators said. Students will wear uniforms to school and have an extended school day.

Sandrea Oneil, general counsel for The Academy, has two children in the Hempstead charter school and lives in Uniondale. She said a new charter school will “give parents an alternative.”

The enrollment surge in Uniondale — as in a number of other Long Island districts, including Hempstead and Westbury — is attributable largely to an influx of immigrant students.

According to The Academy’s application to the state for the Uniondale school, the Latino and African-American population within the district has increased since 2010, while the white population has dropped.

The application noted that within the district, 55 percent of students are Latino, 42 percent are black, and less than 2 percent report being of other ethnicities. Nearly one in five students — 18 percent — is identified as an English language learner.

In Hempstead, while most of the students at The Academy Charter School are from the local district, the school draws from nearby systems as well. Seventeen percent of those enrolled come from Uniondale.

It currently has a waiting list of about 1,000 prospective students, and among those are students from Uniondale.

That charter school, in a two-story building on North Franklin Street, has provided another educational option in the public school district, chronically among the Island’s lowest-performing.

Hempstead public school officials have in the past been critical of such schools, saying that charters take away needed education funding and divide the community.

In December, The Academy’s school operators also won approval of a charter revision allowing the Hempstead school to increase enrollment to 1,134 students in grades K-10 for the current school year, and to 1,296 students in grades K-11 for the 2018-19 school year — the final year of the current charter term.

That charter runs until 2019. With its next renewal, The Academy plans to add 12th grade, school officials said in paperwork filed with the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.

The Academy also noted that its students’ performance on state tests in math and English Language Arts runs above both the state average and that of the Hempstead public schools.

Fast facts on The Academy Charter School

2009 Opens in a leased building at 94 Fulton Ave. in Hempstead with grades K-2 and later adds grades 3-5.

2011 Moves into two-story building at 117 N. Franklin St., which became the official site of the elementary school.

2014 Middle school opens with grades 6-8.

2016 First ninth-graders are served; the charter is approved for expansion through 11th grade.

2017 State approves application for The Academy Charter School-Uniondale; the school in Hempstead is approved to expand the number of its students.

2018 Expected opening of the charter school in Uniondale is set for August, with classes for K-2 to start in September.

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