Students at The Academy Charter School in Hempstead on Sept....

Students at The Academy Charter School in Hempstead on Sept. 4, 2014, during a ceremony recognizing the school's addition of the seventh grade. Credit: Uli Seit

Long Island likely will see the start of its first charter high school next fall, with The Academy Charter School in Hempstead winning state approval this week for the expansion.

The school, which has about 700 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, expects to enroll 50 ninth-graders in September 2016. It won unanimous approval Monday to “operate a high school program” from the SUNY Board of Trustees’ Charter Schools Committee, which provides oversight of some charter schools statewide.

Officials with The Academy Charter School, which opened in 2009 for grades K-2, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. The state Board of Regents must approve the revision of Academy’s charter.

Last year, the school opened a middle school, which now serves grades five through eight. Officials said then that they hoped to add high school grades “so the children could be able to continue without going back into the [Hempstead] district.”

The SUNY Board of Trustees approved a five-year renewal for Academy last year, saying the overall health of the school “academically, fiscally, and operationally is positive.”

The charter has provided an alternative to the public school district, chronically among the Island’s lowest-performing systems.

Hempstead public school officials have been critical of such schools. Board president Lamont Johnson said Thursday that “charter schools, like Academy Charter, rob our students of much-needed educational funding and senselessly divide our community.”

Academy’s charter runs until 2019. The charter revision permits the school to serve up to 1,050 students in kindergarten through 11th grade by the 2018-19 academic year. After enrolling ninth-graders for 2016-17, the high school program would grow by one grade a year, according to the SUNY Charter Institute.

They plan to add 12th grade after their next charter renewal, according to the institute.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools created by parents, educators and community leaders that operate under a five-year contract, or “charter.” The schools, which are run by private boards, must comply with laws regarding health, safety, civil rights and special education, and their students are required to take all state tests.

Both the SUNY Charter Institute and the Regents authorize charters which, while privately run, get money from school districts.

Funding is based on the number of students the schools attract. Local districts pay the tuition of charter students, who often are selected by lottery.

There are three charter schools in Nassau — two in Hempstead and one in Roosevelt. Two others operate in Suffolk, in Wainscott and Riverhead.

An aggregate percentage of 32 percent of The Academy Charter School’s students in grades 3-7 performed at a proficient level on the state English language arts exam in 2014-15 — 24.7 percentage points higher than students in the Hempstead district, according to its most recent report to the SUNY Charter Institute.

An aggregate percentage of 52 percent of Academy’s students performed at a proficient level on the state mathematics exam, exceeding the district average by 40.8 percentage points.

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