March 24, 2019

Rolling out the carpet

Many tasks ahead for Truxton charter school

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Children help Saturday to push a rug down on the floor of what will be a kindergarten classroom in the Truxton Academy Charter School. In front from left are Loralie Austen, Celeste Angeline Quezadas, Ava Aldrich, Livia Dawson and Anna Aldrich. The boys in the back are, from left, Logan Austen and Aiden Brown.

Floors are being buffed, furniture is being moved and job candidates are being interviewed, all in advance of students filling the former Hartnett Elementary School in Truxton in the fall.

The Truxton Academy Charter School is hiring a student achievement coordinator, a head of schools and an administrative assistant, said Patty Dawson, one of the founders of the school. The Truxton Academy Charter School Board formed following the 2015 closure of Hartnett Elementary School and the group purchased the school for $51,000 at auction that year with the help of donors.

Interviews haven’t been conducted for the administrative assistant and student achievement coordinator positions, but the school is down to three finalists for the head of school, she said.

And residents as well as Truxton Academy Charter School founders are preparing the building for students.

Dawson said it’s no easy task starting a school from scratch. The building hasn’t been operated as a school since 2015, so some floors are being redone and equipment is needed, she said.

All the preparation is being done on a voluntary basis, she said.

There are also funding shortfalls to contend with, she said.


If you go

What? An open house and registration event
When? 6 p.m. March 13
Where? Truxton Academy Charter School


“We have been accepted and approved for grants, but have not received the funding yet,” Dawson said. “We are at a challenging point trying to move forward but we don’t have funds in the accounts yet.”

Donations have helped pay for building renovations and upgraded internet and Wifi connection, said Tom Brown, another Truxton Academy Charter School board member who has helped organize the school that received final approval in October 2018 from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute.

Brown said the school’s budget will cover equipment and furniture purchases and vendors are familiar with funding delays for charter startups and allow deferred payment.

Federal and state aid will cover operational costs. According to the school’s proposal, it will get $500,000 in federal funding the first year, diminishing each year for five years.

The school will be small — it expects 68 children to enroll in its first year when it is just a kindergarten through second grade building, expanding to about 142 in the fifth year when it grows to include a sixth grade.

The two SUNY authorized charter schools that are closest in size to Truxton are in Elmira and Ithaca, so Truxton Academy Charter School stands to be the state’s first truly rural charter school.

Students will learn agricultural-based and hands-on lessons and the school is partnering with businesses, including New Penn Farm in Truxton, managed by Jeanette Laudermilk.

Laudermilk runs the community center that has taken hold in the building since Hartnett Elementary School closed in 2015.

She says kids will learn a variety of lessons from the farm, which has more than 400 acres including farming operations, ponds and forested land.

“They can learn the life cycle of a pond, the ecosystem in the pond and different streams,” she said, in addition to learning about the aspects of being a beef-breeding farm.

“All we want to see is for the charter school to succeed,” Laudermilk said. “And whatever we can do to help the charter school succeed we will do.”

Outside of the school’s hours, the community center will still be open for functions, Laudermilk said.

“There’s a lot of excitement going on in the community now,” she said.

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