New York City is a mecca for the health-care profession — yet the state’s first specialized high school aimed at training future nurses will be hours away thanks to Albany pols.
The innovative Nurses Middle College Charter School is one of five newly approved charter schools in New York, with its goal to help ease a staffing crunch caused by COVID-19.
Yet it and all of the the new schools will be located outside the Big Apple — because of the state legislature’s continuing limit on the number of charters in the city.
“It’s unfortunate — because we know the demand is there,” said Joseph Belluck, chairman of SUNY’s Charter School Committee, to The Post.
The nurse-training charter school in Albany’s capital region will be the first of its kind in the state when it opens in the fall of 2022. It is modeled after a nursing preparatory high school in Providence, RI.
Students will earn college credits toward an associate’s degree in nursing while achieving their high-school diploma — hence the “middle college” model.
“It’s a very cool program. The school also is focused on increasing diversity in nursing. It’s fulfilling a real need. There’s a shortage of nurses,” Belluck said.
During a recent presentation on the new site before the SUNY Charter School Committee, nurses involved in co-founding the school could not attend the meeting — because they were too busy filling shortages at hospitals triggered by the state coronavirus-vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
Also upstate, the Destine Charter School for K-5 students will open a year from now, as will the Rochester Academy of Science Charter School serving the same grades.
Two other elementary-grade charter schools will open in the fall of 2022 in Suffolk County on Long Island: the Academy Charter School in Wyandanch and the South Shore Charter School in Central Islip.
The five charter schools were approved by the State University of New York’s Charter School Committee last week.
In a twist, the press secretary for the Senate Democratic Majority, Georgina Parsons, is a board member for Destine Charter — even as her bosses stall action on lifting or eliminating the cap on new charter schools in the Big Apple.
Charters are publicly funded, privately managed alternative schools that are largely exempt from union rules and have a longer school day and school year. They have traditionally been opposed by teachers unions.
There are currently 242 charter schools in New York City with a total of 145,000 students, accounting for one in seven public-school pupils.
Proponents say a nursing-oriented charter school would be popular in New York City, home to the largest health-care and medical system in the country.
A poll conducted in June found that that the overwhelming majority of parents in the city — including registered Democrats — support opening more charter schools.
Susan Birkhead, a board member of the new nursing charter school who was a nurse epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, noted that high school is a good time to begin prepping students for the rigors of the profession.
“It’s very important to prepare people for nursing school. It’s a tough road to hoe,” Birkhead said at the recent SUNY charter committee presentation.
Students at NursesMC will have 300 minutes of weekly science instruction. In addition, they will have the opportunity to take college-level courses in biology, chemistry and anatomy and physiology through partnerships with local colleges including SUNY’s University at Albany and Hudson Valley Community College, which will allow students to earn college credits that are required for most nursing and health-science degrees.
Students also are required to develop a personal career plan that includes an internship in the healthcare field.
They will also participate in a nursing research seminar that exposes students to academic journals and medical studies and are required to write a college-level research paper on a self-selected healthcare topic and demonstrate how the project will impact their future career.
In the spring, The Post reported on a series of proposed charter schools in the city aimed at helping struggling students in danger of dropping out and disadvantaged kids in Harlem, as well as replicating a successful Math Engineering and Academy Charter School in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
But in the legislature, powerful lawmakers allied with the teachers’ unions won’t allow a bill allowing for the expansion of charters in New York City to come to the floor for a vote.
“The statutory ceiling on the number of charter schools serves to constrain the amount of education funding directed away from public schoolsm and there’s no compelling reason to raise that ceiling simply because it has been reached in New York City,” claimed state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who chairs the Senate panel on New York education.