Parents’ anger with the co-location of two Southern Brooklyn public schools and Coney Island Preparatory Charter School boiled over Tuesday night when they unloaded on city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina at a town hall meeting hosted by the head of the city’s public schools at IS 228 in Bensonhurst.
Students at Coney Island Prep — a publicly funded but privately run charter school — have been learning the three Rs within the confines of IS 281 in Bensonhurst and IS 303 in Coney Island for the last few years. Parents initially fought to stop the city from allowing the charter school to occupy space within public schools when the plans to do so were announced in 2011, and they have been fighting to keep it from expanding ever since. Now they say the city must stop cramming students into the shared buildings where they claim they force kids to take impossible “Common Core” exams in crummy conditions.
“How can our children take a city-wide test — in a lunchroom? It is so uncomfortable,” said Lisa Addeo, president of the IS 281 Parent Teacher Association, who says her seventh-grader has complained about his school’s congestion.
Parents also said they were frustrated that the city seems to be favoring the charter school, allowing it to outnumber and outrun the public school in which it’s housed. And the co-location is not only claustrophobic — it feels segregated, teachers told the Chancellor during the meeting.
“We’re asking you to reconsider the co-location at IS 281,” said Theresa Cardazone, a teacher at the school. “It’s really like segregation, it’s not equal, and the kids know it.”
The Chancellor told parents that of course all students are equal, and said it’s the parents who need to work together to make the cohabitation work by finding common ground in services such as after-school programs.
“It’s the one place that’s most successful in convincing charter schools and public schools to work together,” she said.
But Addeo was not satisfied with that response, and so she continued to lodge complaints at the Chancellor about the school’s unhealthy overcrowding.
“What about in the gym? It’s so overcrowded, what do we do about that?” Addeo said, before she was told her time was up and she could write down all of her questions on note cards that would be collected later.
Overcrowding wasn’t the only issue parents leveled at the chancellor — the controversial Common Core standards are impossible to meet, and are ruining children’s education, one angry parent who refused to give her name said.
“I feel that my child is being robbed out of a quality education,” she said. “Common Core and state testing, I know you are an advocate for it, and I respect that, but in my opinion, it’s doing more harm than good.”