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Charter school chooses inaugural students

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 9, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Charter school chooses inaugural students

Feelings mixed on lottery day as 337 vie for 176 spots


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UTICA - Jasmin Sabanovic stared anxiously at the screen hanging in the Holy Trinity Church gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.

"I feel a little bit shaky," said the Utica parent.

First, his daughter Melisa's name came up - then his son, Halid.

Both of his children will be attending the Utica Academy of Science Charter School in the fall.

"Thank God they got accepted and got the opportunity," Sabanovic said with a big smile.

Halid, 13, and Melisa, 11, said they're excited to attend the school, in eighth and seventh grade, respectively.

"I was shocked at first, and then happy," Halid said.

Melisa said, "It put a smile right on my face."

Feelings were mixed on lottery day as 337 students vied for the 176 spots in grades six through nine for the 2013-14 school year.

Students were chosen randomly by a computer program that displayed each name on the screen per grade. Utica students and their siblings were given priority.

The names of those accepted were posted on the door of the school on Lincoln Avenue. Acceptance letters will be sent out and should arrive by Friday, said school founder Tolga Hayali, director of the Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School.

"It's a great day," Hayali said. "It just shows there's a need for this, for options."

Prior to enrollment, parents must verify that they are Utica residents and provide paperwork, such as immunization records, Hayali said.

The students who do not meet the criteria will be replaced by students on a waiting list who do. The 161 students who did not get accepted were put on the list.

With the student lottery behind it, the school will focus on hiring staff, Hayali said. It's also in the process of ordering supplies such as computers and furniture.

The charter school will offer aspects of a college preparatory education with special emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM.

Charter schools are public schools operating independently of school districts and are held to all state standards as well as their charter. There is no tuition to attend.

The school selected 22 students per class, with a total of two classes per grade, or 44 students for sixth through ninth grades. Enrollment will increase each year as grades are added.

Enrollment is expected to reach 462 in the next five years.

The majority of student applications this year were from the Utica City School District, but 29 were from other communities including Barneveld, Cassville, Frankfort, Holland Patent, Ilion, Marcy, New Hartford, Newport, Rome, Oriskany, Remsen, Yorkville and West Edmeston.

Edna Rivera has twins in the Utica school district. Both were accepted.

"I believe that we need a choice as parents," she said.

But her eighth-grader will remain in the Utica district because she is part of the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program and didn't want to lose scholarship money, Rivera said.

Angelyce Rojas, 11, of Utica, was put on the waiting list, as 91 other students also were applying for sixth grade next year.

"She was bummed, but I told her, 'Have faith and you never know, anything can happen,'" said her mother, Vicky Rojas. "There's always next year."

By the numbers

337 students applied for the new school, of which,176 students were selected Tuesday for grades six through nine.

44 students were chosen for each grade, which will be comprised of two classes with 22 students in each class.

92 students applied for sixth grade, 90 for seventh grade, 76 for eighth grade and 79 for ninth grade.

The 161 students who were not accepted were put on a waiting list. The list will be used to fill vacancies until January 2014.

A lottery will take place next year for the incoming sixth grade class and to fill any vacant spots in other grades. All waiting-list students would then have to reapply.

Budget breakdown

The school is proposing a nearly $2.2 million budget.

Revenues include about $1.6 million coming from student's home districts in state aid; $350,000 from a federal grant; and $30,000 in contributions, donations and fundraising.

The school expects to hire about 24 people, about 17 of whom are teachers and other instructional staff, for a total cost of about $1.2 million, including benefits.

Charter school highlights

The school will offer aspects of a college preparatory education with special emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, referred to as STEM. Extracurricular programs will include Lego League, robotics, Science Olympiads and science fair competitions, as well as Saturday prep sessions and college visits.

With Atom, the mascot, and white, blue and burgundy as its colors, the school will start by having a soccer team, offering karate and cheerleading. Other sports might be added the following years. Students must maintain a 2.8 GPA to participate.

Busing will be provided by the student's home district. The school day is expected to run from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., including after-school help sessions.

The school is also working with Utica College to run the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program, which helps at-risk students.

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