Everyone's comments will be sent to a New York State charter schools institute. That institute will decide whether Elmira gets the proposed Finn Academy. More than 60 people gathered at Elmira Free Academy. Many of them spoke.
The proposed Finn Academy would open in 2015 with grades K-3. It would build up to 396 students in K-7. Charter schools are independent, tuition-free public schools, allowed to be more innovative while meeting State standards.
Those speaking in favor said that innovation and good teachers will help students who don't succeed in traditional classrooms.
”This program is designed for the kids who don't achieve (a successful academic) level,” said one man speaking in favor of the school. “We want them to achieve that level.”
”A charter school, you need to think of it not as a competition, but as a choice for the students,” said Jillian Aho in support of the charter school. “I think that's the one of the major things that needs to be looked at with Finn Academy. It's a choice and it's not competition against other public schools.”
People speaking against the school said the proposed academy is too similar to the city's public schools and would hurt everyone else's education. According to the school district, Finn Academy would draw from the same funding pool, resulting in a $14 million decrease in funding for city schools over five years, causing staff and program cuts.
“With approximately 6,500 students left to educate in our district, this loss in revenue will have a significant impact on the programs and class sizes we are able to maintain for students and staff,” said Elmira School District Superintendent Hillary Austin, who was clearly opposed to the proposal.
”I've not seen mention of providing an alternative for persons who cannot succeed In public school,” said Ted Kordela, who said he used to be a charter school principal, but doesn’t see a need for one in Elmira. “I do not see how approval of this charter school will benefit the community as a whole. Rather, it will put further strain on the system at a time when it has suffered significant loss.”
The state is expected to decide whether or not to approve Finn Academy sometime in June.