New Charter School Approvals Expected in April
Representatives for the Barack Obama Green Charter School and the Boys & Girls Club of Union County appeared at the special meeting Monday, giving testimony and answering questions for about two hours before ZBOA Chairman Scott Belin said the board still needed to hear from a planner. Belin recognized the applicants’ wish to expedite the approval, but denied their wish for a second special meeting and told them to find a way to wrap it up at the board’s next regular meeting.
In addition, Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said an expected report from the engineering firm T&M Associates had not arrived by the close of business Monday and board members needed to review it before making a decision.
The Boys & Girls Club building is in a former school connected to a synagogue on West Seventh Street. Sal Dovi, executive director of the organization, said the club carried out a $960,000 renovation of the dilapidated premises in 2001. The club now serves 45 to 50 “tweens and teens” per day in after-school and evening hours, but saw the school as a good fit for use in daytime.
The charter school expects enrollment of 6o students each in grades 9 and 10 in September and founder and principal Safiyah Sadiq said there would be no overlap in the usage, as school hours would be from 7:30 to 3 p.m. In keeping with the school’s philosophy of sustainability, students would walk to school and bring their own lunches. After school, the program calls for students to take part in internships with various higher education institutions.
The board questioned the use of the building, including where students would eat lunch, adequacy of toilet facilities, handicap accessibility, emergency issues, parking, traffic considerations and possible expansion of enrollment. Sadiq said there was a lunchroom space, but lunch storage would require an upgrade to a commercial refrigerator.
According to testimony, there are no separate toilet facilities for students and staff, but they are adequate for the projected population. Concerns about a handicap ramp exiting to a driveway could be resolved by a proposed repositioning of handicap spaces. Parking is sufficient for 18 vehicles, which would accommodate both uses.
The board also discussed parking space lighting and even roof access for planting. A lighting plan will be required so that neighbors in nearby residences are not affected, but Sadiq said there is no plan to use the roof for planting.
The Barack Obama Green Charter School already has 86 students signed up, Sadiq said. To learn more about the school and its concepts, click here.