The Renaissance Charter School, which has served the Jackson Heights community for more than two decades, will use the third floor of the Martin Luther School’s building in Maspeth for kindergarten, first and second-grade classes. All students will share common spaces such as the cafeteria and gymnasium during the day.
The partnership will last two to three years as the charter school constructs its new facility in Elmhurst. The Maspeth school will receive additional revenue from the agreement to facilitate improvements to their building.
“As a member of a Christian community, we’ve been told to share our resources with others,” said Jim Regan, executive director of Martin Luther School. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Regan noted that the school building can hold up to 600 students.
“I think it’s another way of being part of a community and giving an opportunity for another school to begin its initial stages,” he added, “and allow them to flourish and be prosperous.”
Supporters of The Renaissance Charter School reached out to Martin Luther School last fall to express interest in using part of the building, Regan said. For the last month, officials from both schools have been meeting weekly to discuss the partnership.
With the additional revenue, Martin Luther School will be able to offer a tuition freeze for at least two years for all students. It will also lead to improvements to classrooms, offices and entranceways, including a dedicated vehicular entryway on Maspeth Avenue.
The funding will also be used to improve Wi-Fi to in support of the 1:1 iPad Learning program, deepen the school’s endowment fund to offer student scholarships and grants, and provide high-level after-school programs.
“I think it’ll be a real plus for us,” Regan said.
Donna Younghese, principal at Martin Luther School, said she believes students will be receptive to sharing the building with younger students. She noted that the Maspeth school has a community service requirement each year, so the partnership will allow for collaboration among pupils.
For example, the older students at Martin Luther School can be reading buddies or escort the younger students to class.
“Here’s a great opportunity to share the Martin Luther spirit with another school,” Regan said. “You’re talking about five, six and seven year olds that really enjoy the opportunity to be with a big brother or big sister.”
Another benefit, Younghese said, is that more parents in the community will learn about Martin Luther School, especially when their children get to the high school level.
“It will raise awareness within the community that Martin Luther is here,” she said.
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, Regan said both schools are still trying to figure out the schedule and address concerns about safety. They are planning for potentially staggered days and earlier or later starts.
“We’re all in it together,” Regan said. “We want to be one community working together.”