PS 9 enters chartered territory

PS 9 enters chartered territory
Photo by Tom Callan

The city will house a charter school in the PS 9 building on Underhill Avenue — further fueling a long-running battle for space at the school.

The Panel for Education Policy voted in favor of squeezing three existing schools — PS 9, MS 571 and Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School — in the building, much to the dismay of parents fighting for the struggling MS 571 to be replaced by a middle school run by the existing PS 9 administration.

Instead, the Department of Education will “phase out” the low-performing middle school to make room for the college-focused charter school, now located on Pacific Street in Crown Heights.

“Families throughout the district don’t have enough good options,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Department of Education. “In this case, the need of an entire school district outweighs the need of one school.”

Under the city plan, 900 students — up from about 550 right now — would share the space in the school between Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue. MS 571 — which earned a D on its latest city report card — will phased out by 2014.

Parents from both MS 571 and PS 9 were upset — but not very surprised — by the 7 to 4 panel vote on May 18.

“We’re disappointed,” said Michelle French, a PS 9 parent. “But we’ll make it work for our kids.”

In April, State Education Commissioner David Steiner squashed “co-location” plans at the school, siding with parents over how students would share common areas like the gym, library and cafeteria.

But the city presented new plans for the shared use of the building, including a “building council” comprised of the principals of the three schools that will smooth out space concerns as they pop up.

Last Friday, hundreds of students, parents and teachers — from all three schools — packed into a hearing at PS 9, waving signs and chanting.

Supporters of PS 9 sat on the left side of the room, holding “Let PS 9 grow” signs and charter school supporters sat on the right, clad in yellow T-shirts.

Only one side of the room applauded Eric Green, principal of the charter school.

“We hope this will be a strong, positive collaborative relationship, ” he said.

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) was more skeptical.

“Two groups of parents have been pitted against each other,” she said. “It’s shameful.”