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Charter school students all from Utica

Posted by keshiaclukey on May 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Charter school students all from Utica

Others put onto waiting list


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UTICA - A Marcy couple hugged each other, eyes filled with tears at the sight of their daughter's name on the acceptance list.

At the April 30 lottery, their daughter, a Whitesboro student, was accepted into seventh grade at the Utica Academy of Science Charter School.

Now she's on the waiting list.

Though enrollment is open to all Oneida County residents, students in the Utica City School District legally had preference.

When the Marcy student's application was being transferred into the computer for the random lottery, it was given a Utica preference, said school founder Tolga Hayali, director of the Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School.

The Marcy girl was the only non-Utica student accepted to the school.

"It was human error," said Hayali, who went to the family's home and apologized. But legally she had to be put on the waiting list, and a Utica student accepted in her stead. The family declined comment to the O-D.

A total of 337 students applied to the school, 29 of whom were from districts outside of Utica.

Only 176 spots were available in grades six through nine for the 2013-14 school year. Enrollment will increase each year as grades are added.

Education law states that if the number of applications exceeds the building or grade level capacity, the charter school must then accept students through a random selection process.

Preference must be given to students returning to the school, those who have siblings already enrolled and students living in the school district where the charter school is located, according to the law.

Hayali said there's still hope for those on the waiting list as there have already been students who have given up their spots because they are moving from the area. Many times there are openings in September as well, if students don't show up, he said.

Having all 176 students now coming from Utica will mean an approximately $1.6 million loss in state aid to the Utica City School District, money that will now go to the charter school.

"It would have alleviated our financial situation a little bit if students came from other districts," said district Superintendent Bruce Karam. "If they're all coming from Utica it's going to be a devastating blow."

The district also will be responsible for providing the school nurse and transportation, an estimated $148,000, said district Business Official Maureen Albanese.

The costs will vary if students also require English as a Second Language or special education services. Busing will be dependent on where the students live. The closer they live, the fewer runs are necessary, saving the district money.

The district met with Hayali last week to discuss logistics, but is waiting for the final enrollment.

"When we get the list and we get everything together, and we have everything calculated out, then we'll have a final cost number," Karam said.

Hayali hopes to have the list finalized by June 1, but the process involves contacting the parents of those accepted. Proof of residency as well as paperwork such as immunization also must be provided before students can be enrolled.

He said he will try to get the final enrollment to the district as quickly as possible.

"Hopefully we will be able to work together for the best of our students in Utica," Hayali said.

Cost to Utica school district

State aid to the district is estimated at $9,280 per student. With 176 Utica students set to attend the charter school, about $1.6 million in aid will go to the charter school rather than the district. This could vary if students require English as a Second Language or special education services.

The district is also responsible for providing transportation and a school nurse-another estimated $148,000. Transportation could be less if the students lived in close proximity and thus fewer bus routes would be needed.

The total cost to the district is estimated to be approximately $1.8 million. The district is currently awaiting the list of students who will attend the charter school in fall for exact numbers.

Source: Utica City School District Business Official Maureen Albanese

Charter school breakdown

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 Utica Academy of Science Charter School is scheduled to open this fall at the Holy Trinity Church's empty parish school building on Lincoln Avenue.

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

At the April 30 lottery 176 students were selected for grades six through nine, out of 337 applicants. Utica students were given preference. Each grade will be comprised of two classes, with 22 students in each class.

All students selected are from the Utica City School District. Those not chosen were put on a waiting list, which will be used to fill vacancies until January 2014.

Students must show proof of residency and provide paperwork such as immunization records prior to enrollment.

The school is in the process of enrolling students, and hopes to have enrollment completed by June 1.

The school is in the second round of the interview process and expects to have all staff hired within the next two to three weeks.

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