“As of right now, you have no building,” Community Education Council 24 president Nick Comaianni told the representative of a proposed new charter school on Tuesday, all but squashing plans for the Arista Hellenic Charter School of Corona to open at 98-07 38 Ave. in Sept. 2014.
The building is owned by the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, which wants to open a charter school, but Comaianni doesn’t see this happening so soon.
“This is stuff that takes quite some time,” he said in a telephone interview. “They need a staff, a principal. It takes at least a year or two to put in place.”
On Tuesday, Maria Pastis, chairperson of the school’s board of directors, outlined the proposal.
“The mission is to promote excellence in student learning and close the achievement gap for all students through an academically rigorous core knowledge K-5 curriculum, a comprehensive Greek study program and customized instruction,” she said.
She said the maximum number of students per class is 25. The school would feature an extended day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as after-school extracurricular activities. The school would follow an extended school year consisting of 190 days. Admission would be through a lottery system.
One point of contention is the availability of the proposed building, which currently serves as an annex to PS 143.
“We were told by the DOE that the DOE signed a lease for the upcoming year,” Comaianni said. “The DOE told me they’ll have the building for the next year at least and hopefully permanently once they purchase the building,” he said
That would mean the founders of the proposed school would be forced to look for a new space to set up shop.
Father George Anastasiou, pastor of the church, tells a totally different story.
“The church has never and will never entertain an option to sell the building to the DOE,” he said in a telephone interview. “Our intention is to open a charter school.
“We do have a building. We signed a two-year lease with the DOE two years ago. That lease expires now.”
He indicated that “we have authorized the DOE to use the building for one more year on a month-to-month basis with no option to buy.” He said “it’s basically a verbal agreement” and that no formal lease has been signed.
“I’m very disappointed that in an area with such a need for a school, a building ready to house that overflow is being railroaded.”
Comaianni said he cannot see the DOE giving up the building “unless there’s an extreme problem.” He also doubted that the DOE would agree to a month-to-month lease on a building intended for use as a school. A copy of the lease provided by Anastasiou suggests otherwise.
In the past ten years, CEC 24 has approved only one charter school, according to Comaianni, in reference to the Middle Village Preparatory Charter School.
“They showed us an ability to stand alone and every amenity. They weren’t taking any building away from the DOE. For us, it was a plus,” he said.
“When it comes to charter schools, we don’t believe in co-location. I want to know how the students will be seated, where’s the lunchroom, where’s the gym. If a charter school approaches us for approval, we want to know all these things,” he said.
As for the new proposal, he said, “I cannot see them opening by 2014. By January you have to see what kids are going there.”
A town hall meeting to discuss the school was scheduled for June 22 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the church’s assembly hall on 38th Ave.