Jackson Heights charter searches for high school site

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A well-regarded Jackson Heights charter school wants to establish a new 500-seat high school in the district, staff announced at a public meeting last Thursday, but the search for a proper location may be back on after the School Construction Authority expressed interest in Blessed Sacrament School, which closed at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

The Renaissance Charter School hopes to spin off its high school curriculum to a new facility. The school, which opened in 1993 and converted to a charter school in 2000, has 525 students in grades K-12 and a waiting list of around 1,500.

The Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation would open in September 2010 at a location yet to be determined. School officials said they were hoping to use space at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, one of the Brooklyn Diocese’s schools being closed or downsized. But Dr. Philip Composto, superintendent of District 30, said that when he brought up the possibility at a recent planning meeting, SCA officials said they had entered into negotiations with the diocese to acquire the property.

Nicholas Tishuk, a Renaissance teacher and the planned principal of the proposed high school, said they would prefer Jackson Heights as a location to allow crossover classes between the schools but said “we’re absolutely open” to sites elsewhere in the district.

“The need of the community beats out our preference,” he said.

The charter high school would actively recruit at-risk students, Tishuk said. Students from District 30 would also get priority for open seats after siblings of current students. The current K-12 school enjoys a 95 percent graduation rate and a 95 percent college acceptance rate, he said.

The school also made the unusual step of seeking the Community Education Council’s approval for its project. Charter schools are governed by their own five-year charters and a board of directors and generally have little to do with the organizations that oversee conventional public schools.

The plan for the school got support from a number of elected officials.

City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) praised Renaissance’s focus on multiculturalism and the relatively small size of the school.

“Schools have to be smaller than they are,” she said. “Newtown High School has 4,000 students. It just doesn’t work.”

State Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said charter advocates and teachers from throughout the state approach him to discuss the Renaissance charter.

“They talk to me about how it’s a model to follow,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:31 pm, October 10, 2011
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