The city wants to give one third of a formerly struggling Cobble Hill high school to a high-performing charter school — but parents are already fighting the co-location plan.
Under the plan, the Baltic and Court street school — which is home to Brooklyn School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies — would house grades K-4 of a new school operated by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network.
“This neighborhood needs another elementary school, and we believe that locating here will … provide a stable, high-quality option for students and parents,” said Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the Department of Education.
But parents are fighting plan, saying that teachers and students at the global studies school — which this year rose from an F-rating to a B — will have to compete with the new charter school for classroom, cafeteria and gym space.
“They’ll have to push students into a clump,” Pamela Bynoe, president of the Parent Teacher Association at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. “I’m not upset they’re coming to the area — I’m just upset they’re coming to this building.”
Parents with students at the site — which also houses Star School, a program for students with developmental disabilities — contend that it doesn’t make sense, demographically, for 5-year-olds to share space with 18-year-olds.
But Moskowitz disagrees. Her public charter school accepts students via lottery and offers education “independent from bureaucracy,” she said. To make sure everyone knows it, Moskowitz has raised millions for her Success Charter Network, a small portion of which has been spent on lobbying and to hire an outside public relations firm.
The city notes that the “under-utilized” building has 690 available seats — about 35 more than the MS 447 building on Dean Street, which last week fought the same proposal on the grounds that the school would hinder its well-respected autism program.
Both battles highlight a double standard that strikes at the heart of Brooklyn’s charter school phenomena: Parents generally want them in their neighborhood — just not on their turf.
If a recent survey — circulated by Success Charter Network — is to be believed, about three-fourths of Cobble Hill parents “support” such schools in the neighborhood.
“Our community would benefit tremendously from a new school option,” points out parent Eliza Rossman. “We moved to Brooklyn because it seemed like a great place to raise children.”
The news comes after enrollment at grade schools in the neighborhood spiked — and a few months after Brooklyn Prospect Charter School announced it would opened a several blocks away on Douglass and Third streets.
Despite parent opposition, Joseph O’Brien — principal of Brooklyn School for Global Studies — said he welcomed the charter school, saying it could potentially turn the building into a “one-stop shopping”-style education with grades K-12.
“We can work together to create an oasis of learning,” he said. “It won’t be easy but it’s worthwhile.”
The city “hasn’t addressed” where grades 4-8 of the charter school will go — but said the MS 447 building is the only other option in the neighborhood.
That’s why MS 447 parents say they’ll keep fighting, too.
“We’re not letting up,” said Michelle Ifill-Williams, that school’s PTA president. “We’re joining forces.”Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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