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Potential new schools in District 20

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A slew of new small schools vying to open in School District 20 hope to teach students how to make sculptures, play games popular in foreign countries and even cook.

Nearly a dozen educators are currently finalizing proposals for these new small schools which would open in September 2010 in District 20, which spans Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Borough Park and part of Bensonhurst.

All of the schools would offer classes in kindergarten to fifth grade and be small schools, not charter schools. The distinction means that day-to-day operations will be overseen by DOE personnel.

The overwhelming majority of the schools are proposing a multicultural theme.

A Great Start Academy will work on “developing young citizens who value diversity, who take pride in their own culture but also respect other cultures,” explained Jacqueline Danvers-Coombs, who is the school’s team leader. “We may teach some games that come from another country.”

The International Academy for Science and Technology seeks to offer a dual language program, allowing students to learn Spanish, Cantonese or Mandarin. Non-English-speaking students would continue to study their native languages while improving their English skills.

The academy’s team leader, Yuqing Hong, says the school would be a perfect fit for District 20 because “District 20 has the second largest ELL [English Language Learners] population citywide.”

Laurie Windsor, president of District 20’s Community Education Council (CEC), says ELL students deserve programs tailored to their needs.

“ELLs and special ed %u2013 those two groups made us a ‘District in Need of Improvement,’” she said.

However, Windsor wonders if dual language programs are the best way to improve the English speaking and writing skills of ELL students.

“The focus should be on teaching children to learn English,” she said. “You don’t know how much assimilation is going to happen if you’re doing a multicultural theme.”

There’s also a proposal for a School of American Cultural Studies, which would incorporate media, sports and arts, including sculpting. American Cultural Studies would keep students with the same teacher for two consecutive years, which would “develop close personal relationships between faculty and family,” said the team leader, Patrice Edison.

Speaking of creative curriculums, the Borough Academy for Successful Students would infuse cooking into courses. The brains behind the school believe students can learn math by measuring ingredients.

The new school proposals are due to the DOE by the end of the month. Announcements about which schools will open are expected to be made early next year.

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