Nicotra Early College Charter School
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Focus on mental health; summer classes
No track record
Lois and Richard Nicotra Early College Charter School welcomes and integrates students living with emotional challenges and other special needs and helps them overcome the disadvantages of poverty, according to the school's website.
Founded in 2018 with 85 students, Nicotra offers small classes, pathways in business or law, and the opportunity to earn up to 60 free college credits at St. John’s University.
The first early college high school on Staten Island, Nicotra is one of four schools in the Integration Charter Schools network, founded by former social worker and Zen teacher, Kenneth Byalin. The network has eight full-time mental health professionals and a part-time psychologist to serve its schools. It also hosts social work, psychology and mental health interns from education programs around the city. All staff train on how to work with students with mental health challenges.
Nicotra has an unusual year-round model to accelerate instruction to get students ready to take college classes as early as 11th grade. Since many students come in with special needs and below-average skills, the school combines one cohort of 8th and 9th grades, who move up the grades together.
All classes are taught by a teacher and a teaching assistant and are capped at 18 students to provide the individual support students need.
Nicotra students attend school from 7:50 am to 2:40 am during the regular school year, and from 8 am to 1 pm during July and August. Summer school is designed to help boost incoming students’ study skills, writing and test-taking skills. All children get computer tablets and they take them home when they graduate if they are still in good shape, the school secretary said. Extra academic and mental health support is a hallmark of the school.
Three of the schools in the Integration Charter Schools network are housed at 1 Teleport Drive on Staten Island but Nicotra will eventually move into a new building (in construction) behind the Teleport location that will take into consideration different learning styles, with couches, and different types of study areas. John W. Lavelle Prep (K-12), Staten Island’s first charter school founded in 2009, will remain in the Teleport location.
The fourth school in the network, Richmond Prep, is slated to open in 2020 and will specialize in integrating students with autism.
Special education: The school secretary said that while the school is officially unscreened, the administration does look at IEPs (Individual Educational Plans) because students with severe special needs may not be well served in this integration model, and may need an even smaller setting.
Admissions: By lottery. (Lydie Raschka, phone interview and web reports, January 2019)