ATLANTIC CITY — A teacher is spearheading an effort to start an all-boys charter school in the city next year.
First, the state Board of Education will have to approve revised charter school regulations to allow single-gender schools.
Ricardo Belgrave, a teacher at the New York Avenue School, said he decided to put together an application to the state Department of Education, because he believes boys benefit from specialized education suiting their learning styles.
“We will have a curriculum that involves more activities, and more male mentors for the students,” he said.
The school will be called the Frederick Douglass School for Boys. It already has a Facebook page. Founders will co-host a father-son breakfast Saturday at the Sheraton to help build interest in the school.
Belgrave testified at the January meeting of the state Board of Education in support of single-gender schools, saying they can help transform the education of the city’s young men.
He submitted letters from supporters, including parents Ruben Stewart and Leonora Tennant, Grace Assembly of God Church’s Rev. Winston Broomes, ThisIsAC founder Evan Sanchez and Councilman Jesse Kurtz, who sponsored an effort to get school vouchers approved in the city.
“It is a historic opportunity,” Kurtz said. “It’s taking a step forward in education reform.”
Belgrave, of Egg Harbor Township, has four sons. He said he was influenced by Marvin Hill, a teacher he had in sixth grade at the Indiana Avenue School. He wants more boys to have such role models.
Belgrave taught a single-gender fifth-grade class at New York Avenue School and learned a lot from the experience.
“I realized that even fifth grade is too late,” he said. “We have to start in kindergarten.”
The school would open in September 2018 with 60 students in each grade K-2. It would expand a grade each year to a maximum of 540 students through grade 8.
Belgrave said he is looking at possible sites that include a church building used by the former Oceanside Charter School.
Opening a single-gender charter school won’t be easy.
The state Board of Education must adopt the new regulations allowing it. The application must go through a vetting process by the state Department of Education. Many applications are rejected each year, though applicants may reapply.
The state board this month accepted the revised regulations with some changes. It will be posted in the New Jersey Register for a 60-day comment period before final adoption by the board.
The state proposal allows for single-purpose charter schools that serve educationally disadvantaged or traditionally underserved students and students of a single gender. If approved, the code will require an application for such a charter school to demonstrate a compelling need and educational reason for limiting enrollment based on gender to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.
Atlantic County has elementary charter schools based in Galloway Township and Pleasantville, plus Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point.