Schenectady

Schenectady charter school narrowing in on downtown location

A look at 530 Franklin St. in Schenectady Wednesday. Re’Shawn Rogers, executive director of Destine Prep, said he’s hoping to sign a lease in the coming weeks for the entire third floor of the office building about a block from City Hall, which currently houses offices belonging to Northern Rivers and the Social Security Administration.
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A look at 530 Franklin St. in Schenectady Wednesday. Re’Shawn Rogers, executive director of Destine Prep, said he’s hoping to sign a lease in the coming weeks for the entire third floor of the office building about a block from City Hall, which currently houses offices belonging to Northern Rivers and the Social Security Administration.

SCHENECTADY — Five months after Destine Preparatory Charter School gained state approval to operate within the city, the school is close to securing a location in the heart of downtown.

Re’Shawn Rogers, executive director of Destine Prep, said he’s hoping to sign a lease in the coming weeks for the entire third floor of 530 Franklin St., an office building about a block from City Hall that currently houses offices belonging to Northern Rivers and the Social Security Administration.

“We’re really close to executing a lease on that space,” he said Wednesday. “There’s just a lot of channels you have to go through before you can sign a lease. … But we’re pretty set on that space.”

Rogers said the approximately 13,000-square-foot space is currently gutted, which will make it easier to design the space once a lease is finalized. The school’s administrators have been in contact with the building’s landlord and an architectural firm regarding design plans ahead of the school’s August opening.

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There’s still plenty left to be done, but Rogers touted the building’s proximity to the Karen B. Johnson Library, City Hall and miSci, which he said are institutions that will help enrich students’ academic experience.

Plans originally called for opening the school in either the Hamilton Hill, Mont Pleasant or Eastern Avenue and Vale neighborhoods, but a lack of suitable options were available, Rogers said.

“There’s so much happening downtown right now,” he said. “I think parents want that opportunity for their children to be down here.”

Destine Prep won approval to operate within the city from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute last October, a move that drew criticism from some residents and local state lawmakers, who argued that a charter school would take public funding away from the Schenectady City School District.

Others argued that having a charter school would give parents a greater option to educate their children. The city has been without a charter school since the International Charter School of Schenectady closed in 2008 due to poor academic performance and financial stress.

An application about the school which was submitted to the state points to a high number of students with reading proficiency levels that are below the state average and notes that the school’s mission is to provide an education that leans heavily on reading comprehension as well as science, technology, engineering and math for children in areas of the city with high poverty rates.

“We exist to provide an educational option for scholars of families who seek high quality schooling but do not have access to it,” the application reads.

Under the approved K-5 charter, which must be renewed every five years, Destine Prep is set to begin holding kindergarten and first-grade classes in August, and will add a grade each year. A total of 116 students have been approved for the school’s first academic year, but student population is expected to balloon to 435 by the 2026-27 academic year.

The school’s funding from the city school district will grow from $1.8 million to $6.9 million during that same period. The district has an operating budget for approximately $218 million.

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Rogers said younger students’ curriculum will focus on reading in order to build a foundation needed to learn, but increased instruction time for subjects relating to science and mathematics will be added as students grow.

He noted a final operating budget for the school is expected to be approved in June, which will likely include additional federal funding as well as a number of private grants school leaders are in the process of applying for. The school has received $100,000 in private grants to date.

“We believe we will be able to manage a pretty tight but very feasible budget to make sure we will be able to get the resources we need for our students,” Rogers said.

Around 60 families have applied to the school, which Rogers said is a rough split between kindergarten and first grade students. He added that the school has been receiving an uptick in interest in recent weeks, which he attributed to an extensive outreach effort that includes a mix of social media ads and boots-on-the-ground.

A number of details still need to be worked out, including transportation — which must be provided by the city school district — but Rogers said the school is planning to run on an extended schedule, from 7:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., which he said has garnered the interest of many concerned about childcare.

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Rogers said he is planning to meet with administrators from the city school district in the coming weeks and hopes to create a working relationship.

The goal, Rogers said, is to not convince those opposed to the school to apply, but to create the best possible learning environment for the families that are interested.

“I’m working with my families and focused on opening a great school for my families,” he said.

Three teachers have been hired so far, according to Rogers, who said the school is planning to hire seven additional teachers and an administrator before classes begin. A starting salary for teachers is $55,000 and includes medical benefits and a 401K.

The plan is to have 30 students and two teachers per class, which Rogers said will allow for greater student engagement and create opportunities to break students into smaller groups and offer more one-on-one time for students.

The goal, he said, is to hire teachers with diverse backgrounds — including those with backgrounds in special education — who are passionate about education and building a foundation for the school to be successful.

“Our families deserve a great free education right here in their community,” Rogers said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

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Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

1 Comments
William Aiken March 10, 2022
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Kudos to Mr. Rogers for getting his charter school project off the ground. Not only is Mr Rogers’ work improving the lives and education of inner city children; he is taking on this project, facing tremendous opposition from the powerful Teachers’ Union.

After Covid, the shut down of public schools has inspired more parents than ever to pursue school choice. Innovative entrepreneurs like Mr. Rogers offer parents a way out of our failing government school systems. I wish him and his students success.