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New charter school gets $200,000 state grant

The Charter School of Inquiry, which is set to open in August, was one of 19 winners of $200,000 grants from the State University of New York’s Charter School Institute this week.

The competitive stimulus grant will help the charter school bring its building into full compliance with fire codes, handicap accessibility and state Department of Education standards. The money also will allow the school to offer programming in the humanities and performing arts related to the infusion of African-American history and culture into the school’s curriculum, said the school’s co-founder, Helene H. Kramer.

The performing arts program is an integral part of the school’s focus on learning through inquiry, added Kramer, a former president of the Buffalo Board of Education.

The school, which will be located at 404 Edison Ave. on the East Side, was the only charter school authorized to open in Buffalo this year.

It will open in August with 50 children each in kindergarten, first and second grades.

Another grade will be added each year – up to the sixth grade – for a total of 350 students by the end of the five-year charter term.

The school’s key instructional elements will include:

• A rigorous, inquiry-based curriculum in which students will learn by raising questions and conducting investigations, then interpreting and communicating the findings.

• An academic focus on literacy that will enable every student to read fluently and with good comprehension by the end of third grade.

• A responsive classroom approach recognizing that the social curriculum is as important as academics.

• A collaborative team-teaching technique in every classroom, including a teacher, teaching assistant, literacy coach and inquiry coach.

• Data-driven instruction and continuous monitoring of progress in reading, literacy, math and science.

• Instruction in African and African-American history and culture to give all of the students perspectives they may not ordinarily receive.

• Integrating the arts into the program to stimulate innovation and creative risk-taking.

In addition to Kramer, the other founders of the school are:

• Melodie K. Baker, regional program manager of the Service Collaborative of Western New York and former assistant director at Bethel Head Start Centers.

• Peter B. Dow, co-founder of Firsthand Learning, a nonprofit focused on curriculum and professional development.

• Patricia Dyer, senior research consultant for Measurement Inc., which provides evaluation and school improvement services.

• Betty Evans, a retired Buffalo Public Schools educator with more than 35 years’ experience.

• Beth Schoellkopf, a science teacher with 14 years experience at Tapestry Charter School and Park School.