A group of concerned parents and teachers from the Rochester City School District is seeking to open a new kind of elementary school. Their idea is to build on the success of School Of The Arts (SOTA) by offering a similar interdisciplinary curriculum in the K–6 grade levels; a curriculum that is “rich in creative expression” and with a greater focus on the individual child.
Their proposal is being called Vision Quest Community School and the group will make a presentation to Superintendent Vargas on April 21…
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel that our city schools are failing us. Charter schools may be one answer. A recent RBJ article reports that last year four out of five New York charter schools outperformed the district schools where they were located.
The downside is that charter schools are somewhat exclusive. Lack of special education services discourage special-education enrollment. And lack of transportation will often filter out the lowest-income families.
Stacie Colaprete of the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood says she trucks her 6-year-old son all the way to School 52 from the west side of the city. “It was the best I could do for him after not getting into Genesee Community Charter or World of Inquiry .
Colaprete has been involved with the planning of the new Vision Quest school and would like to see it to open it in the southwest quadrant. “We are lacking options in our area,” she says, “especially with all of the talk of school closings and the renovations that sent our neighborhood kids to Freddy Thomas.”
According to the draft proposal (PDF), Vision Quest will offer children “the space, freedom, and time to be creative in their learning.”
- The school will be a visual & performing arts magnet school offering instruction in dance, choir, drama, instrumental music, painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, photography, and audio/visual systems
- Classroom teachers will incorporate the arts into their curriculum
- School curriculum will be teacher-created, inquiry-based, hands-on, and centered around the Common Core ELA and Math standards, NYS standards for Social Studies, and NGSS standards
- The school will employ an “active learning model” meaning students will take on the roles of scientists, historians, and community members as they learn; classrooms will be discussion-based; assignments will project-based; and students will participate in field studies
- Assessments will be performance-based; students will be assessed according to their own skill levels and compared only with themselves
- All students will participate in enrichment clubs such as Science Olympiads, Mathletes, community service, cooking, sewing, gardening/sustainability, fitness, music, theater, photography, robotics, debate, first aid, computer programming & design
- The school and classroom environment will be one of mutual respect and rapport between school staff, students, and families
- Family involvement and communication will be integral; policies will include mandatory parent/family volunteer time
- Students, teachers, and families will all be asked to sign a memorandum to ensure policies regarding attendance, discipline, dress code, and general student preparedness requirements are met
- There would be three classes per grade level with no more than 15 students per classroom
- The school day would be 8 hours or more
- The school year would run Sep. 1 – June 30
It’s important to point out that Vision Quest Community School would NOT be a charter school. If approved by the superintendent and the school board, Vision Quest would be a city school funded by the district. The difference would be that the school would have the autonomy to select its own teachers/staff and governance committee, set its own school day and calendar, determine its own approach to teaching/instruction/assessments, and construct its own budget. And it’s likely the school would look for additional funding from private donors and businesses. The planning committee is currently seeking partnerships with local colleges and community organizations (they already have commitments from Rochester Institute of Technology, Casual Fridays, Girls On The Run, The Felt Queen, and another from The Good Food Collective to provide locally grown produce for the cafeteria).
Colaprete sees our struggling city schools as something that has deep implications for our neighborhoods and the Rochester economy over the long run. “I see many of my friends leaving the city when they have kids – they make an attempt to get them into [charter schools] and if that doesn’t work, up they go to Brighton,” she says. “This is a problem that goes well beyond how bad the schools are.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Vision Quest Community School and would like to attend the presentation to Superintendent Vargas (April 21st, 5:30pm, at 131 W. Broad Street ) please send an email to [email protected].
You can also visit Vision Quest Community School on Facebook
Tags: Bolgen Vargas Ed.D., charter school, eduction, elementary school, Rochester, Rochester City School District (RCSD), Rochester NY, School Of The Arts (SOTA), Stacie Colaprete, Vision Quest Community School
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