The Charter School for Applied Technologies – the largest charter school in New York State – wants to add more students.
With 1,675 students currently enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, the school wants to add 690 students over the next six years. Because of the size of the expansion, the middle school grades will relocate off the current Kenmore Avenue campus – possibly to the former Holy Angels Academy on Hertel Avenue.
Superintendent J. Efrain Martinez said the expansion was motivated by the number of students who apply to the school each year but end up on the waiting list. Last year, he said, the school had 142 openings – and 1,172 students applied.
“I believe it’s a culture of hard work that includes students and adults that attracts people,” he said. “We have some processes that have worked very well. That includes the elimination of failure. When a child does not meet a standard in one unit of time, we do interventions, and they get another chance. If you are in high school and have not finished your work, you will stay until 4 o’clock. We take no excuses.”
The Charter School for Applied Technologies would add 264 students next school year, according to the plan that was submitted to the state Education Department. Kindergarten, and sixth through ninth grades would each add more than 50 seats to the existing 130 in each grade level.
As the expanded kindergarten and ninth-grade classes advance each year, the other elementary and high school grades would expand, under the plan. The school would have about 180 seats in every grade level by the 2019-20 school year.
The expansion requires approval by the state Board of Regents.
Currently, the charter school is housed in three buildings on Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. If the state approves the expansion, the sixth, seventh and eighth grades would relocate to another building off the existing campus. The existing middle school building on Kenmore Avenue would then be used as part of the expanded elementary program, along with the existing elementary building.
Martinez said the school is considering two possible options for the new site of the middle school.
“We have identified two buildings that are quite easy to have ready in the short term,” he said. “I cannot tell you which ones. It’s part of the negotiations. It will not be too far away from us, but it will not be next door.”
One of those options is the former Holy Angels Academy on Hertel Avenue. Ellicott Development purchased the building in August and currently rents the gym to Nardin Academy, but the long-term future of the building has been a source of speculation.
Carl P. Paladino, CEO of Ellicott Development, confirmed that the building will continue to be used as a school.
“I don’t want people thinking we’re going to try to convert it into apartments. We’re going to keep it as a school,” said Paladino, a member of the Buffalo Board of Education. “Applied Technologies is one of the schools that applied to us to be considered. But there’s another game plan right now that we have to see through.”
He declined to elaborate.
Considered a school in good standing by the state since its inception in 2001, the Charter School for Applied Technologies has graduated 98 percent of students since its first senior class in 2008, school officials said. About 80 percent of its students live in Buffalo.
In 2012 – the latest state-reported year for Regents exams – students at the charter school scored higher than students in the Buffalo Public Schools in all subject areas and outperformed the state in eight of 10 Regents exams, school officials said.
Enrollment is based on a lottery system, as required by state law. Applications for 2014-15 will be accepted through April 1. An open house for interested families will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the elementary school building, 2303 Kenmore Ave.