Charter school report criticizes RCSD over school space

December 13, 2017 08:00 PM

A new report is critical of the Rochester City School District for not letting charter schools use the school district's open space. When News10NBC shared this with the president of the City School Board said, what open space?

We think this is timely because of what happened last week.

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A charter school left a building leased by the city school district over concerns of toxic chemicals. State and Monroe County Health officials say the building is safe.

The students and teachers of Rochester Prep High School needed to find new space but a report by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, a charter school advocacy group, says it's not going to get it from the city school district.

The report said "in a particularly egregious case, a recently renovated high school was closed due to underenrollment, yet the Rochester City School District has refused to allow charter schools into the space." The school is the former Charlotte High School. (More on this below.)

In New York State charter schools don't get public money for buildings, so they have to find open space and the rent money.

Geoff Rosenberger, Board Chair, Rochester Prep Charter Schools: "Which I think is obscene but that's New York State."
Geoff Rosenberger is the Board Chair of Rochester Prep Charter Schools. The report says "charter school growth is slowing, and lack of access to facilities may be a reason."

But look at the numbers in New York State and Rochester.

Over the last 10 years the number of charter schools in New York State went from 96 to 281. In Rochester, the number more than tripled, from 4 to 14.

And charters are schools of choice. So their leaders and their students chose to leave district schools and now they want to use district schools.

Brean: "Isn't that like having your cake and eating it too?"
Geoff Rosenberger, Board Chair, Rochester Prep Charter Schools: "Well first of all the children who come into the charter schools in kindergarten were never in the district system. My belief is government is there to serve all of the residents of their community. These are residents of the community. They should be served."

Van White is the President of the Rochester School Board. He says the city school district doesn't have any empty space especially after 400 children came here after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Van White, President of Rochester School Board: "And so we've had to lease additional space for those families and students."

But look at what's happened in city schools over the last 10 years. Enrollment dropped from 32,717 in 2007 to 27,552 in 2017. That's a decline of 5,165 children.

Brean: "So if you have fewer students, but the same number of buildings then you should have open space right?"
Van White, President of Rochester School Board: "Wrong assumption. We don't have the same number of buildings."

White identified two buildings the district stopped using. A charter school is in one of them right now. When it comes to the criticism that the district won't grant charter schools access to open space inside the former Charlotte High School, Van White says, "I'm going to say quite frankly -- that's prime educational space."

White says the district has plans for a new school inside the former Charlotte High school building. It is currently the home of the Leadership Academy for Young Men.

Van White, President of Rochester School Board: "In many respects, if the charter schools are saying they don't have space, in many instances, we're similar to them."
Charter schools in New York City have access to district schools because the mayor controls the schools. Rochester Prep High is moving into an old Catholic school in January.


Berkeley Brean

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