The city’s fifth charter school, which was approved on Monday, will open its doors to kindergarten students this September, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.
Philip’s Academy Charter School of Paterson was given a four-year approval to start operating in the 2016-17 school year with 45 kindergarten students. By the fourth year the school will have 180 students in kindergarten through third grades, according to the state.
“We’re very happy to have the opportunity to come to Paterson,” said Miguel Brito, lead founder of the charter, which has an existing campus in Newark. He said the school has a different model, much different from other charter schools, that it intends to deploy in Paterson.
Brito said the school’s goal is to prepare students for college. He said the school has a six-year research project called “focus” that is assigned to a student when he is in the third grade and completed with a paper in the seventh grade and an oral presentation before a panel in the eighth grade.
The school also has a program called “eco spaces” which focuses on gardening, nutrition, and cooking, said Charity Ferreira, assistant director of advancement at the charter. Brito said the school at its Newark building has a roof top garden that is utilized by students.
The charter has yet to settle on a building in the city. It has been scouting for buildings for the past months and has a few that it is closely examining, but has not made a selection yet, said Brito.
School board president Jonathan Hodges did not welcome the news of a fifth charter school. He said it will drain resources from the district.
“All this does is further exacerbate the problems caused by their [state’s] under funding,” said Hodges. “Charter schools are not going to be the answer for every child. You’re going to hurt the vast majority of students by opening them against the wishes of the community.”
School board members have said the district has been losing millions of dollars from its budget to charter schools. This year the district handed over roughly $35 million to the four existing charter schools, according to the Paterson Public Schools’ budget.
Both the city council and the school board passed resolutions urging the state to place a moratorium on any new charter schools.
Even though the child may leave the building, because the district has more than 50 schools across the city, if it’s a kid per class that means we can’t cut a teacher, we can’t turn off the heat or the electricity so a lot of the fixed costs remain, said Hodges.
The school board president said citing a Stanford University study charter schools are generally no better than traditional public schools. In fact, some are often worse, according to studies. Since 2010, the department of education approved 39 new charter schools and closed 17 due to academic, operational, and financial failures, according to the state.
Ferreira said the Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark scored exceptionally well in the recent Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) examinations. However, the most recent state report card for the charter states its academic performance is “significantly” lagging in comparison to schools across the state.
The same report states the charter’s “college and career readiness” is exceptionally high at 96-percentile in New Jersey.