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The unauthorized guide to getting your child into a charter school

Back in November, we published the unauthorized guide to getting your child into the Buffalo Public Schools -- basically, a parents' roadmap to what many people find to be an incredibly confusing admissions process.

Now it's time for the sequel: the unauthorized guide to getting your child into a charter school.

Although charter schools have existed for more than a decade, it seems that there's still quite a bit of confusion about what they are and how the admissions process works. And the fact that each school has a slightly different application and process only serves to complicate things a bit more.

Here's an effort to distill the essential information.

Charter school classroomCharter schools, remember, are public schools. They are funded by tax dollars. They do not charge any tuition.

(Each charter school is run independently, by its own board. They are not run by the Buffalo Public Schools. Some charter schools provide transportation; some do not.)

The application process for charter schools is separate from the application process for district schools. If you have already applied to the public schools, you can still apply to a charter school.

Any student can apply to any charter school. If a charter school has more applicants for a particular grade than it has available seats, then it must hold a random lottery to determine which students get those seats. 

Preference in the lottery is given first to students who have a sibling already attending the school, and then to other students living within the geographic boundaries of the school district that the charter school is located in. (That means you can live in Cheektowaga, but send your child to a charter school in Buffalo, for instance. Many charter schools enroll students from several different school districts.)

The lottery must be conducted in public. If you want to, you can go and watch them draw the names for the lottery and find out on the spot whether your child got a seat.

(If a school has fewer applications than it has available seats, then it does not hold a lottery -- it just gives every applicant a seat.)

Students who apply to a charter school but do not get a seat through the lottery are placed on a waiting list. Once the lottery is held, parents are notified by mail as to whether their child has received a seat or has been placed on the waiting list.

There are 17 charter schools in Erie and Niagara counties. You have to submit a separate application to each charter school you want your child to apply to. (The applications are generally just a couple of pages long.) There is no application fee.

You can apply to as many charter schools as you want to.

Many local charter schools have made their applications available online as a downloadable document that you can print, fill out, and either mail in to them or drop off. A couple of schools provide a form you can actually fill out and submit online.

What follows is a list of the local charter schools, with the phone number, address and grade range available in 2012-13 for each, along with information about each school's application, deadline and lottery, to the extent the information was available.

If you have questions about any particular school, please contact the school directly.

Aloma D. Johnson Fruit Belt Community Charter School, 856-4390. 833 Michigan Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-4. There's a link on the school's website to download an application form in English or in Spanish, but neither link works. Call 856-4390 for information. When I called the school, I was told there are spaces available for next year, and there is no application deadline.

Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School, , 854-2490. 190 Franklin St., Buffalo. Grades 7-12. There's a form on the school's website that lets you fill it out and submit it online. The lottery will be held on April 28 in the school's gym.

Buffalo United Charter School, 835-9862. 325 Manhattan Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-8. The school provides the opportunity to fill out and submit the application form, entirely online. The deadline is 5 p.m. April 1.

Charter School for Applied Technologies, 876-7505. 2303 Kenmore Ave., Tonawanda. Grades K-12. Links are available to download an application form in English or in Spanish. Deadline is 10 a.m. April 2. The lottery will be held April 3.

Community Charter School, 833-5967. 404 Edison Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-6. No application form is available on the website. An admissions page provides a phone number and online form for parents to request a registration packet. For information, call 833-5967. Applications must be received prior to the lottery on April 4.

Elmwood Village Charter School, 886-4581. 124 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-7. A pdf application in English is available for download on the website. Applications must be postmarked by March 31 and received by April 2, according to the application. The lottery will be held at 6 p.m. April 4 in the school's atrium.

Enterprise Charter School, 855-2114. 275 Oak St., Buffalo. Grades K-8. An application is available online in English, but it is for the 2011-12 school year.

Global Concepts Charter School, 821-1903. 1001 Ridge Road, Lackawanna. Grades K-11. The only link for an application form on the school's website is for a 2011-12 form, and it yields an error message. Call 821-1903. Application deadline is April 1. The lottery will be held April 17.

Health Sciences Charter School, 888-4080. 1140 Ellicott St., Buffalo. Grades 9-10. The application is available in English and Spanish as a pdf file. The application deadline is March 23. The lottery will be held April 1.

King Center Charter School, 891-7912. 938 Genesee St., Buffalo. Grades K-6. The website includes a link for filling out and submitting an application online. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. April 2. The lottery will be held at 4 p.m. April 3. The school also advertises an "early admission" program for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Niagara Charter School, 297-4520. 2077 Lockport Road, Niagara Falls. Grades K-6. A pdf of the application is available online in English. The school requires that an application for free/reduced lunch be submitted with every application, or the application will not be accepted. The lottery will be held at 4:15 p.m. April 1.

Oracle Charter School, 362-3188. 888 Delaware Ave., Buffalo. Grades 9-12. A pdf of the application is available online in English. Applications must be received by April 1.

Pinnacle Charter School, 842-1244. 115 Ash St., Buffalo. Grades K-8. An application is available online in English. The application indicates a deadline of March 5, and says that "if the number of applications exceeds available space, a random lottery held in late March 2012 will determine admission to the school."

South Buffalo Charter School, 826-7213. 2219 South Park Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-8. An application is available online in English. The application deadline is 3 p.m. April 2. The lottery will be held at 5 p.m. April 18.

Tapestry Charter School, 332-0754. 65 Great Arrow, Buffalo. Grades K-12. A pdf of the application is available online in English. A note writtten in Spanish at the bottom of the application indicates that the school is able to provide a translation upon request. Application deadline is April 2. The lottery will be held at 9 a.m. April 4.

Western New York Maritime Charter School, 842-6289. 266 Genesee St., Buffalo. Grades 9-12. The enrollment form is available online in English.

Westminster Community Charter School, 816-3450. 24 Westminster Ave., Buffalo. Grades K-8. An application is available online in English. The application deadline is April 1. The lottery will be held April 3.

- Mary Pasciak

facebook.com/mary.pasciak     twitter.com/SchoolZoneBlog    mpasciak@buffnews.com

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | djgee@buffnews.com


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | tlankes@buffnews.com


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | stan@buffnews.com


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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