The Board of Alders Legislation Committee voted unanimously yesterday evening to approve a zoning amendment that would potentially relocate Highville Charter School from Hamden to New Haven.
The school offers education for grades Pre-K through 10 and put forth a proposal to move to 300 Mansfield St., a property the school plans to purchase from current owner AT&T. Highville is seeking a larger location in New Haven to add grades 11 and 12 and to move closer to the 70 percent of its student body that lives in New Haven. The amendment voted on last night changes zoning such that primary and secondary schools can occupy a parcel of the Science Park Development District where the Mansfield property sits. The legislation committee’s approval sends the proposed amendment to the Board of Alders for a vote.
“It’s humbling that everyone was in favor of [the amendment],” Executive Director of Highwood Charter School Craig Drezek said after the vote.
In addition to Drezek and Bernard Pellegrino, the lawyer representing the school, 15 parents, students, teachers and community members testified Thursday in support of Highville. Students delivered prepared statements, emphasizing the cramped classrooms at Highville and praising the positive impact the school has had on their lives.
Seven members of Highville’s Model UN team, led by coach Vaughn Scanterbury, approached the microphone to highlight the school’s mission to develop “globally-conscious citizens,” as written on the school’s website. The school offers a global studies curriculum, offering foreign language instruction to all students and holding global studies courses separate from social studies.
Students on the Model UN team travel to debate global issues with other Model UN teams from across the nation. Scanterbury said he is open to expanding the Model UN curriculum to local community members interested in global issues.
Other community members, including the Connecticut Advocacy Manager of Northeast Charter Schools Network, reiterated their support of the school and its expansion efforts.
“Our children are our future, and we should let Highville do what they need to do,” former Ward 11 Alder Robert Lee said. Five out of the seven alders on the legislation committee spoke in favor of the amendment during aldermanic discussion.
Four alders, three of whom are not on the legislation committee, wrote a letter to the legislation committee in support of the amendment. The alders noted Highville students’ strong performance on Connecticut’s standardized tests and added that the move would bring over 20 new jobs to New Haven.
There have recently been many amendments to the zoning of the Science Park Planned Development District, Pellegrino noted. He cited Amistad Academy, also a public charter school, which successfully petitioned for location in the district in 2006. He added that Highville would be a desirable school within walking distance from the residential units recently permitted in the district.
Pellegrino said he is hopeful the whole Board will approve the amendment. If it does, a site plan will still need to be submitted to the City Plan Commission, detailing land use specifics such as pedestrian access, parent and bus drop-off and facilities usage.
Highville Charter School was founded in 1999.