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Prep school’s first step - Brooklyn Paper

Prep school’s first step

Josh Beauregard and Hemanth Venkataraman are the masterminds behind Unity Prep — a new charter school they’d like to open in Fort Greene next year.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Fort Greene resident wants to build a tuition-free dream school that challenges the city’s elite preps.

Unity Preparatory Charter School would bring music, design and even a curating club to the Downtown-area, offering Brooklyn parents a local alternative to Manhattan’s elite schools and giving students between grades six and 12 a unique chance to collaborate with the nearby cultural strongholds such as Brooklyn Music School and Pratt Institute, one of its organizers says.

“We want to provide an educational experience that rivals what kids of privilege receive,” said Joshua Beauregard, a Harvard doctoral candidate and former teacher who founded the school with three other seasoned city educators.

“It’s about high expectations and high levels of support to match,” he said.

Unity would launch somewhere in District 13, a swath of the borough stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 125 sixth-graders in fall of 2013 before growing to add high school classes.

The planned liberal arts and sciences program will boast college-preparatory courses, classes at local universities, and teachers who are experts in their fields.

Parents in the school district welcomed the prospect of a cerebral school.

“I’m not a huge supporter of charters myself, but we could definitely use another middle school option,” said Vanessa Barnett, a Clinton Hill resident who begrudgingly put her daughter in a private school due to lack of quality choices. “The proof, however, will be in the pudding.”

Beauregard isn’t the only one planning to open a middle school in the area. The high-ranking, but controversial Success Charter Network has also applied to open a new K-8 facility next year, and PS 8’s long-awaited middle school extension on Johnson Street in Downtown will open this fall.

Unlike some of the city’s other prep schools, Unity Prep hopes to gain a reputation for its high grades, not its high rolling parents.

The charter school plans to establish a lottery guaranteeing 73 percent of sixth-grade seats go to students eligible for free or reduced price lunch — mirroring the percentage of disadvantaged students in the district.

“We’ve got that term charter in front of us, but we’re really just a new school opening up with the needs and interests of kids,” said Beauregard, whose resume includes time at the school consulting company SchoolWorks. “We’re not looking to open a franchise. Once it opens, it’s not ours — it’s the community’s.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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