The Renaissance Charter School
QUEENS NY 11372 Map
The Renaissance Charter School
A progressive school serving children in grades K-12, Renaissance Charter offers a family-like environment with plenty of projects and class trips. Students seem happy: on our visit we saw some of the younger students skipping cheerfully down the halls.
Quirky kids are welcome, and Renaissance has a long history of integrating children with special needs in regular classes. High-achieving kids may do advanced work while children who are struggling get the help they need. Students with emotional problems or physical handicaps get plenty of support. “Kids who are different are accepted,” said Principal Stacey Gauthier, whose own children attended Renaissance.
Class trips and projects allow students to learn and to show their understanding in a variety of ways. For instance, students who have trouble reading a science textbook may learn about geology through a trip to the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. The school’s small size allows teachers and staff to provide individual attention. Homework and classroom assignments may be modified depending on the needs of individual students.
Teachers of all grade levels integrate lessons about New York City into their classes, using the city and surrounding areas as a learning lab. Children in grades 4-6 took a five-day trip to Nature’s Classroom on Lake George where they learned about environmental science and reenacted scenes from the Underground Railroad.
Many classes integrate the arts. For example, 9th graders wrote short plays and composed songs to understand the historical context of current events. While Renaissance is a small school and cannot offer the wide variety of classes that a larger high school can, it does offer electives such as agriculture and Mandarin Chinese. Advanced Placement classes are offered in Human Geography, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, and Calculus.
The school’s weeklong celebration of learning called “Rensizzle” (named for Dr. Joseph Renzulli, the director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented) exemplifies the school’s hands-on, project-based teaching style. In preparation for Rensizzle, students in grades 7-12 write proposals of classes they would like to take during that week—ranging from culinary arts to robotics to animal care—and then during the week of Rensizzle, traditional classes are cancelled as students work in mixed-age groups to explore the topic they voted on through field trips to places such as the Bronx Zoo, the Tenement Museum, or the Brooklyn Bridge.
Extracurricular activities include sports, such as soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball; student government; Teens for Racial and Ethnic Awakening; robotics; chess; and band among others. The school has no outdoor space, but it does have an indoor playground.
Special education: The school accommodates children with a wide range of disabilities, including autism, dyslexia, visual impairment, and emotional and physical handicaps. Students with special needs are fully integrated into general education classrooms, many of which have two teachers. They participate in all elements of student life, from student government to the National Honors Society.
The principal is particularly sensitive to learning differences: her own son, who has dyslexia, graduated from Renaissance, went to a selective liberal arts college and applied to law school. Children with autism, including some served by District 75, have gone on to colleges such as Pace University.’
Many of the high school teachers are dually certified in special education and another subject. Additionally, the school also has reading specialists, an ESL teacher, a certified social worker, and paraprofessionals.
All students, including those with special needs, may get extra help at the school’s Learning Center, staffed by teachers and paraprofessionals who help students with their homework. Students also receive after school help with their homework and tutoring through a partnership with 82nd Street Academics.
College admissions: Students in grades 9-12 participate in the College Bound Program, in which they take college prep courses and chart a four-year plan to establish a career plan and an academic and community involvement portfolio to prepare them for career and college options. Starting in their junior year, students may also take college classes at Queens College. Nearly all students are accepted into colleges, including CUNY and SUNY colleges and some very selective schools like Wellesley and Barnard.
Admissions: Renaissance accepts one incoming kindergarten and 5th-grade class each year. There is one class per grade in K-4 and two per grade in 5-12. Priority is given first to siblings of enrolled students and then to residents of District 30. Available seats are awarded by lottery. Some seats may be available in grades 1-4, 6-8, 9-12. Applications for these grades are automatically wait listed and will be considered only if openings occur; however, the waitlist is generally over 1,000 students long. (Pauline Zaldonis, November 2012)