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Proposed Sites for Uptown Music Charter School Up for Debate at Hearing

WHIN Music Project - Orchestrating Dreams Spring 2014
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WHIN Music Project

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The future site for a new music-based charter school proposed for District 6 will be up for discussion at a hearing this Thursday.

The WHIN Music Project, founded by David Gracia, has been working with a real estate company to try to find either public or private space within District 6, which serves part of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood, to house its new school.

The public hearing on the charter school — a kindergarten through fifth grade school that will provide two hours of music instruction each day and will also integrate music into academic courses — will take place at P.S. 28 at 475 West 155th Street at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The public is welcome to weigh in on the school, which is currently looking for a 35,000-square-foot facility that will allow it to eventually serve about 325 students. The school will need space for 12 academic classrooms and eight specialty rooms, including four that will be used for music, according to Gracia's application.

I.S. 52 at 650 Academy St. was listed as one possible site of interest because the School Construction Authority defines the building as being under capacity, the application said.

The building currently houses Middle School 52, the High School for Excellence and Innovation and the new Inwood Early College for Health and Information Technologies.

But parents and education advocates at I.S. 52 have already made it clear they're opposed to putting more schools inside their building — and in 2014 led a battle to try to prevent the Inwood Early College for Health and Information Technologies, a six-year technical school, from moving in. Opponents said they had concerns about students as old as 20 being in the same building with students as young as 10.

The founders of the WHIN school said they are aware that space is only one aspect of an appropriate facility and are meeting with District 6 Superintendent Manuel Ramirez for guidance on a possible co-location.

According to the application, the school’s founders are also looking at private spaces within the district, including the Convent Baptist Church administrative building at 145th Street and Convent Avenue, and the Broadway Temple at Broadway and 175th Street.

Gracia said that he and the other founders remain committed to exhausting all possibilities for private space in the district before co-locating in a public school and are currently working with a real estate company that helps charter school identify private spaces.

"We requested public space in the application because that is the only way in which we may be eligible for funding to defray the cost of private space. That's all," he said.

Gracia launched the WHIN Music Project at the United Palace Theater in 2012. Since then, the youth orchestra has tripled in size from 50 to 150 students and has spawned satellite programs in the Bronx, Brooklyn and East Harlem. 

The rapid growth convinced Gracia of the need for a music-focused school in the neighborhood.  

“We work in this community because we really believe kids from this community need us,” he told DNAinfo New York earlier this year.   

In February, Gracia submitted a letter of intent concerning the WHIN Music Community School to the New York State Education Department, the first step in getting accreditation for a charter school.

Gracia and was then asked to submit a full application, which is currently under review by the department.

If the application is approved, Gracia hopes to open in fall 2016 with kindergarten and first grade classes.