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Schenectady charter school proposal pulled for second time

Schenectady charter school proposal pulled for second time

The organizers of a proposed Schenectady charter school have withdrawn their application for a secon

The organizers of a proposed Schenectady charter school have withdrawn their application for a second time.

Eximius Academy Charter School had planned to be open in the fall of 2013, but officials sent a letter dated Nov. 19 to the state Education Department to end the approval process.

School spokesman Pamela Swanigan said state education officials said changes were needed to the school's proposed curriculum and the budget. Organizers needed more time to put together a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum and recruit effective teachers.

They are not going to use a charter management organization or buy a cookie-cutter curriculum, according to Swanigan. Also, state education officials want the charter school to make sure it is offers competitive salaries for teachers.

Despite the setback, Swanigan said organizers are not giving up on their goal of opening a charter school in Schenectady.

“It doesn’t matter to me if we have to wait a year or 18 months. The most important thing is getting it right,” she said.

Swanigan said negative public reaction to the school at a public hearing before the Schenectady City School District Board of Education in September was not a factor in the decision. Community members told Schenectady school board members that a charter school would divert funding from city schools and hurt the district’s programs.

“We’ll always have negative political feedback. That’s the least of my concerns,” she said.

It has been a rocky road for this proposed charter school, which organizers have been trying to get off the ground for almost three years. Eximius planned to begin with roughly 156 kindergarten and first-grade students and add 78 kindergarten students every year until it is a K-5 school. Organizers also planned longer school days and school year.

It formally submitted its first application in April 2011 but withdrew it the following month because they weren’t able to obtain their intended site — the former Draper School in Rotterdam, which was also home to the International Charter School of Schenectady from 2005 to 2008. The Disabled American Veterans plan to convert the building into apartments.

Organizers submitted a new application in July and identified the former Schenectady County Department of Social Services building on Nott Street as a potential site. Swanigan said she hoped the property, which is owned by the Galesi Group, would still be available in a year. If not, they will find another property within the Schenectady City School District, according to Swanigan.

“We have an architect that’s committed to working with us,” she said.

Swanigan said the charter school approval process has been made more difficult by a change in state law. Previously, organizers were allowed to amend their applications as they went along.

“Now, they ask you to withdraw the whole thing and start over,” she said.

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