Dec. 4, 2016 Staff Report
A tuition-free charter school that is set to open in East Elmhurst/Jackson Heights has started accepting applications for students entering the 5th grade in 2017.
The school, called Forte Preparatory Academy, is being founded by Jackson Heights resident Graham Browne. Browne received SUNY Charter School Institute approval to open it this summer and started accepting applications for the 2017 year in the fall.
The academy is a college prep middle school that will ultimately serve children in grades 5 through 8. For its first year, the school will only be accepting applications for children entering the 5th grade.
“We are seeking to serve a diverse student population, including students with learning differences, so there will be no admissions tests to apply,” said Browne.
Graham is close to securing a permanent location for the academy, which is expected to be in the greater Jackson Heights/East Elmhurst area.
The process for starting the school was not straight forward but he was able to get it off the ground thanks to the help of the community.
Browne received letters of support from local parents, elected officials and institutions, including State Senator Jose Peralta, the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, and staff members of the Langston Hughes Library.
“It was an incredibly long road to build community support and awareness for a school that was only a dream in the summer of 2015,” Browne said. “It’s an honor to be doing this work with my Board of Trustees for the students and families of this neighborhood I call home.”
Last winter, a community feedback survey was launched on the Forte Preparatory Academy website to gauge the need for the institution.
“Eighty percent of respondents were interested in seeing another college preparatory middle school option in the community,” Browne said. “Additionally, 100% of respondents said that the performing arts were an essential component to a child’s middle school education.”
As a result of the survey findings, the Forte Preparatory Academy board decided that the school will now offer performing arts five days a week.
“With a majority of respondents being Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst parents, we are excited that our school model is catering to the needs of the local community,” Browne said of the survey. “Many respondents had issues with the current [public school] overcrowding and the limited middle school options available for children, so we are excited to bring new middle school seats to the area.”
The academy will have up to 90 students per grade, with six core subject teachers, a performing arts instructor and a digital literacy teacher in each grade. The school will also focus on English Language Learners (ELL) with small-group tutoring and extended instruction time for students whose native language isn’t English. The goal is to achieve a student-adult ratio of less than 10:1 in each classroom for a personalized education environment.
“Additionally, in other conversations we’ve had with families, there’s a great concern about the high school application process in the city,” Browne said. “So we’ve created a position, Director of High School Placement and Alumni Success, who will focus on helping students navigate the process and put themselves in a great position to succeed at the next level.”
Interested parents and families who currently have children in fourth grade may apply for a spot in the founding fifth grade class at www.forteprep.org/enroll.
The academy is also accepting applications for a Founding Director of Curriculum and Instruction, as well as an Operations Manager. Interested educators or administrators can learn more at www.forteprep.org/joinourteam.
Browne said that while they do not have a permanent location at the moment, they plan on using a shared space in East Elmhurst for their founding 2017 class while they get off the ground. Those who would like to follow the school’s progress in obtaining a permanent location can visit their website here.