New Rochester charter school purchases Nazareth Hall building - Catholic Courier

New Rochester charter school purchases Nazareth Hall building

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester have sold the Raines Park building that houses one of its sponsored ministries, Nazareth Hall Preschool and Elementary School, to a group forming a charter school for middle- and high-school-aged boys.

At the end of this school year, students and faculty of Nazareth Hall Preschool and Elementary School (grades prekindergarten through 5), will move two blocks south to the Nazareth Schools’ 1001 Lake Avenue campus, which currently houses the coeducational middle-school classes of Nazareth Hall as well as the all-girls high-school classes of Nazareth Academy.

This winter and spring, the school will be working with a developer, an architect and community members to reconfigure the Lake Avenue facilities to accommodate operating prekindergarten to 12th grades on a single campus, said Dawn Gruba, director of marketing and communications for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester. Renovations are set to take place during the summer of 2010.

"We are looking to get feedback from parents and staff on how they think the school should look," Gruba said.

According to a press release about the changes, the sale of the Raines Park building is intended to address operational costs and ensure quality into the future.

The Nazareth Schools Web site offers a slideshow presentation about the changes, which it says were necessary due to declines in enrollment. Nazareth Schools saw about a 5-percent drop in enrollment for the 2009-10 school year, Gruba said.

The presentation notes that the school-age population of Rochester and Monroe County has dropped, causing declines in enrollment at all schools across the county, particularly at those that charge tuition. The slideshow also pointed as another cause of its enrollment dip to the 2008 closing of about half of Monroe County’s Catholic schools. Those schools had acted as feeder schools for Nazareth Hall Middle School and Nazareth Academy.

In a statement about the changes, Nazareth officials pointed out that consolidation may benefit the schools.

"This decision to bring all of our students together will offer enhanced academic opportunities to our elementary, middle school and high school curriculum and provide greater operational efficiency," said a statement about the changes from Sister Patricia Carroll, president of the Nazareth Schools.

A consolidated campus could allow greater access to science and fine-arts facilities, stronger ties in a peer-mentoring program, and closer collaboration among students, faculty and staff, according to the statement.

For most of its history, Nazareth Hall has been located in the Raines Park building. The Sisters of St. Joseph founded the school in 1884 as a private boarding school for boys. It was originally located on Lake Avenue and moved in 1908 to the Raines Park location, where it served both day and resident students.

From 1952-72, it operated as a cadet school for boys, and became educational in 1972, adopting an early-childhood education program, according to a history posted on the school’s Web site. In 1989, seventh- and eighth-graders from Nazareth Hall moved to the Nazareth Academy building. In 1992, Nazareth Hall and Nazareth Academy were consolidated into the Nazareth Schools.

The future use of the Raines Park building as an all-boys school hearkens back to the building’s past, noted Joe Munno, a founder and principal of University Preparatory Charter School, which will start up in the Raines Park building.

The all-male charter school will be focused on preparing teen boys for college, Munno said. From graduation rates to standardized test scores, girls in urban settings are outperforming their male counterparts, said Munno, who previously was principal of Marshall High School in the Rochester City School District.

In addressing boys’ performance, the school will use an expeditionary model of learning, Munno said. This inquiry-based school structure requires students to do interdisciplinary field work and long-term projects to answer questions posed by educators.

Munno said he has not had direct experience working with an expeditionary learning school in the past, but that he has toured and studied several expeditionary schools in the state and across the country. He said he believes the educational model will adapt well to an all-male academic setting.

"I see boys as very competitive, very hands-on and very task-oriented," Munno said. "They like to see the start and the finish."

The school’s enrollment will be capped at 450 students, and it is expected to open with 150 students in September 2010. The charter school will begin with grades 7 and 8, and will grow by one grade per year until the schools houses grades 7 to 12. Applicants must be New York residents, but Rochester residents will have priority for seats over other Monroe County applicants, Munno said.

As a charter school, the school is publicly funded and tuition-free. Students will be required to wear uniforms, consisting of school shirts and ties, Munno said.

One major aim of the school is to prepare students for the rigors of college coursework or employment, Munno said. This focus on the future is due in part to Munno’s experience as football coach at Marshall High School. Munno said that in his coaching capacity, he would work hard with his seniors to identify colleges that were a good fit, but that the majority of graduates would return home in October, complaining of a lack of support in college.

"My whole thing is preparedness, so that when they leave me, they will be successful in the next stage of life," Munno said.

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