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Queens Chronicle

Charter school plans to open in Woodhaven

Circle Academy expects to enroll 506 students by 2020, eventually go K-8

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:30 am

A new charter school is proposed to open next year in Woodhaven.

Circle Academy Charter School, whose main applicant is an Ozone Park resident, will submit its application to the New York State Board of Regents on March 28 and, if approved, will welcome its first students in September 2015 at the former Christ Congregational Church at 85-27 91 St., which has been closed for several years.

According to the charter school’s application, the school will enroll K through 5 students during its initial charter term, starting with 88 kindergarten and 66 first-grade students in 2015. Each year, CACS will take in 88 new kindergarten students through 2020, when it is slated to have 506 students in grades K through 5. The school then intends to expand to K through 8, adding one grade each year, should its charter be renewed.

Preference for admission will be given to students in District 27, which covers Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Richmond Hill, South Jamaica, Broad Channel and the Rockaways. The district only has two charter schools, both in the Rockaways and both with a long waiting list.

Michael Etsep, a spokesman for the charter school, said the district is in need of a new charter school option.

“[The applicants] just thought it was a natural expansion of their efforts to meet the needs of kids of the district,” he said.

The lead applicant for the school is Michelle Pascucci, whose address is listed as being in Ozone Park. According to the application to be submitted, Pascucci is a parent with 20 years experience in financial management and administration for large nonprofits and business management experience.

The former church will be utilized for its first year and then the school will move into a building at 74-15 Jamaica Ave., where it will be housed permanently starting in 2016.

“We knew our building won’t be ready until 2016, so we were looking for a temporary location,” Etsep said. “It will meet our needs acceptably for kindergarten and first grade.”

Estep said there will be a public hearing in the spring run by the state Education Department for members of the community, and the school has been doing outreach. He was at the March 11 meeting of Community Board 9 to hand out literature to board members.

The state Board of Regents is expected to vote this summer on issuing the charter.

He added that the charter school is not concerned about Mayor de Blasio’s recent opposition toward charters because CACS will not be seeking a co-location within a traditional school

“We have never planned on co-location in our developments,” he said.

Ed Wendell, former president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, lives next door to the church site and said he has been in contact with the leaders of the proposed school. He said reconstruction work has been going on at the church to turn it into a school and his main concern is to work with its leaders on issues related to an open alleyway between his home and the church that has been a problem.

“They have been gutting the place out,” he said. “What I really want is to get something built to cover the alleyway between their building and mine.”

Etsep confirmed that extensive repair work has been done in the church and it will be ready to accept students next year.

“It will be all up to code for a structure of that size,” he said. “So it was a real find for us.”

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