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Astoria charter school approved by state

Trustees of the State University of New York approved a new charter school for Astoria at a monthly meeting last week, but some members of Community Board 2 oppose the site of the new school on Thomson Avenue because of traffic concerns.

Some 40 people turned out for a public hearing Tuesday night at Long Island High School at 14-30 Broadway to hear Jude Hollins of the city Board of Education discuss plans for the new school across the street from LaGuardia Community College.

The application for Our World Neighborhood Charter School was filed by Jack Salzman, the assistant executive vice president for immigration, education and community services for the New York Association for New Americans.

One of four new charter schools planned for the city, it will begin as a middle school serving roughly 250 students and may grow, said Board of Ed spokesman Jude Hollins.

The New York State Charter School Law was passed by the Legislature in 1998.

Much like a public school, a charter school must meet the same health and safety, civil rights and student assessment requirements. But unlike a public school, a charter school runs as an independent not-for-profit educational corporation with its own board of trustees. Our World Neighborhood Charter School still faces approval by the Board of Regents, but is scheduled to open in September.

CB 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said the area surrounding LaGuardia Community College is already too dangerous because of traffic congestion.

"Did anyone do an environmental study on this site?" asked Conley. LaGuardia College cannot control the number of people going across the street. It's one of the most dangerous intersections in Queens."

Salzman, however, disagreed. He said the charter school at the proposed location would be a great benefit to Queens, which he called the most diverse borough in the city in terms of immigration. He also said Our World Neighborhood Charter School would help alleviate overcrowding at other neighborhood schools in District 30.

"This is a great opportunity for the borough," Salzman said. "Queens needs many schools. It's not just another school in the area - it's a great opportunity to educate the students on cultural differences here and throughout the world."

Queens College President Russell Hotzler agreed. He said the new school would give students the ability to learn as well as teach, which would benefit the entire education system by preparing new educators.

"Basically [Queens College] has a tremendous investment in the teacher preparation program," Hotzler said. "The charter school will encourage and will allow us to work directly with the students."

The Board of Regents was scheduled to vote on the proposal next month, Hollins said.

Reach reporter Peter Sorkin by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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