Irina Groushevaia

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Williamsburg Charter High School (WCHS), the longest operating charter high school in Brooklyn, will officially serve the community for another five years. On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents voted to issue WCHS a full-term five-year renewal, the greatest allowable charter term in New York State.

Charter schools are an alternative to public schools in New York City. The schools are independent, not-for-profit, and open to the public. They are operated under a different set of rules than the typical state-run schools.

According to New York State Law, charter schools base enrollment on a random lottery; no test or tuition is required to attend. Lotteries take place in April for the following school year. 

WCHS received its operating charter in February of 2004. The public, community charter school initially served 400 students across grades 9-12 and operated from 424 Leonard Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The School moved to 198 Varet Street, in Bushwick in September of 2009 and now enrolls up to 963 students according to their press release.

“The majority of our students are Title I from District 14, giving the neighborhood kids a better education than the public schools in the neighborhood,” said Katie Manion, the school’s Accountability and Development Manager. “We receive federal funding based on household income of families, 90 percent of our students are considered Title I students, and receive government funding to assist their needs.”

School-wide Title I assistance, which is federal funding that is allocated to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families, helps ensure that all children meet the challenging state academic standards, added Manion.

To keep a charter school open, they must prove to the NYSED that it is academically, organizationally, and financially well run to continue to receive funding. The state wants to ensure that the school is properly serving the neighborhood kids. 

WCHS boasts a private school education, while keeping it accessible and free, while also providing the high schoolers with services to ensure graduation. WCHS had a 83 percent 4-year graduating rate in the last two years, while the New York City average is 74.3 percent.

“We have a higher graduation rate and we help kids who may dropout,” said Manion. “We have good programs for English as a New Language (ENL) and Special Needs (SPED), as well, where at a public school [the students] may not receive this kind of attention.”

WCHS graduates. 

The school’s population is diverse, and the student body is 69 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, with the rest falling under “other” or white.

The school has many staff members and educators who grew up in Bushwick and have a clear understanding of how these kids have grown up and what their community is. The school also collaborates with community youth organizations in the neighborhood like, United We Stand and Educated Little Monsters.

By encouraging students to participate in after school activities and keeping them engaged in the educational process, the WCHS hopes to continue providing an alternative education in underserved communities.

Visit the WCHS website for more information.

All images courtesy of WCHS.

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