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Queens Chronicle

Planned charter school sparks debate at CB 9

Board to send letter to state as school withdraws application, will resubmit

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:24 am, Thu Jun 19, 2014.

A debate over a proposed charter school in Woodhaven turned somewhat contentious at Community Board 9 Tuesday night.

The Circle Academy Charter School is due to open in a former church at 85-27 91 St. next year, but its application to the New York State Education Department was recently withdrawn.

Michael Etsep, a spokesman for the school, was at CB 9 and told the board the school intends to reapply next month after it was encouraged to make some changes to its application by the NYSED.

“We will go through the entire process again, but we still expect to be accepting our first students next year,” Etsep said.

According to its 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. The school then intends to expand to K through 8, adding one grade each year, should its charter be renewed.

After the 2015-16 year, the school is slated to move to a permanent home in a larger building at 74-15 Jamaica Ave.

Etsep announced the school’s creation at a March meeting of CB 9.

But some members of CB 9, including Seth Wellins, the chairman of the Education Committee, are not satisfied with CACS.

The committee drafted a letter to send to the NYSED, at the agency’s request according to Wellins, that said CACS had not been very cooperative with the board and complained of inadequate outreach.

Some members of the board, led by Woodhaven’s Maria Thomson, said the letter was unfair.

“I really feel his letter is disparaging and biased,” she said, further asking for the entire board to vote on whether or not to send the letter rather than just leave it to the committee. “This letter represents the whole board and I really feel we should vote on this as a board.”

Thomson called the letter a matter of opinion, which Wellins took issue with.

“This letter is completely factual,” he said. “It is not an opinion and it does not take a position on whether or not the school should open.”

CB 9 Chairman Ralph Gonzalez noted that the letter had to be changed to remove an allegation that no public meeting was held. One had been.

Ultimately the board voted to send the letter without a vote of the full board with many Woodhaven members voting no.

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