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Wisteria among next wave of charter applications in Buffalo

In today's story, we report that a group is asking the state for permission to start a Waldorf-inspired charter school in Buffalo.

The Wisteria Charter School effort is significant for two reasons:

First, it would offer Waldorf-style education tuition-free for the first time in Western New York.

The Rose Garden, on Buffalo's West Side, offers Waldorf-style education to toddlers through 5-year-olds, and the Aurora Waldorf School in East Aurora offers a Waldorf education to children through eighth grade. But both places charge tuition that put them out of reach of many families in Buffalo.

Wisteria Charter School Wisteria's founders say they plan to incorporate the hallmarks of Waldorf education -- imaginative play, handwork, daily outdoor experiences, strong community connections -- into their program while still meeting the testing requirements set out by the state and federal government.

They haven't worked out all the details yet. For instance, children at Aurora Waldorf keep the same teacher from first through eighth grade -- Wisteria's founders say they plan to incorporate looping, but they're not sure how many years a child would stay with the same teacher. But they seem to have a pretty clear sense of where they want to go with their curriculum.

The other reason Wisteria's application is significant is that it's at the beginning of the next wave of applications for charter schools in Buffalo.

At the end of May, you might recall, the state Legislature lifted the cap on the number of charter schools from 200 to 460, as part of the state's push to submit a competitive Race to the Top application.

Of the 260 new charters that can be issued, 114 of them are set aside for New York City. That leaves considerable room for more charters across the rest of the state. And, in keeping with the heavy concentration of charter schools in the Buffalo area, several charter applications are in the works locally. We'll be reporting more on each of those in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, public input sessions for Wisteria will be: 5:30 p.m. today (Wednesday) at the Niagara Branch Library, 280 Porter Ave.; 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.; 5:30 p.m. Friday at Allen Hall at the University at Buffalo's South Campus; and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Crane Branch Library, 633 Elmwood Ave.

- Mary Pasciak

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