University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men opened in the former Nazareth Hall on Raines Park in 2010. Principal Joe Munno knew he’d quickly outgrow the location, but there were few options.
“There’s plenty of buildings that our big developers own and I met with all of them,” Munno said. “They do have an interest, but it’s about are they willing to spend money and put up some funds to renovate buildings? They’re not.”
Munno wants to build an addition, but the Maplewood Neigborhood Association successfully swayed the City Planning Commission to say no. A letter to the board cited rowdy youth, density, litter and traffic. There was also this stereotypical description of urban black boys:
Neighbors now have to deal with large groups of young men walking slowly up and down the middle of the street, defying cars that travel in the right of way.
NIMBY-ism aside, University Prep’s situation is not uncommon. The Rochester Academy Charter School is in the same boat, as it would like to unite its two cross-town campuses.
Even as Catholic schools are closing and the City School District is losing population, charter schools are struggling to find room. Closed Catholic schools are often not large enough for high schools. The RCSD hasn’t offered any of its space (to our knowledge) and it’s not clear if charter schools would be willing to share buildings. Munno said he wants his kids removed from the RCSD environment.
We’ve already seen some odd charter school conversions. The former Mapledale Party House was retrofitted for a now-closed charter school. An old factory on St. Paul was renovated for another failed charter school and ironically now houses RCSD offices. Greece Ridge Mall offered University Prep space, but the school’s charter mandates staying in the city.
So that leaves a city with a lot of empty buildings, a district that needs to consolidate space, and a bunch of charter schools spending millions of tax dollars on leases and construction.
Does any of this make sense?