‘Roots’ for the win — Charter middle school approved in Fort Greene

Gibran’s latest go-round — in Ft. Greene
The Brooklyn Paper / Dana Rubinstein

A popular charter school is moving into Fort Greene’s PS 287, thrilling parents who want another education option in the neighborhod but dashing hopes of the public elementary school’s own proposed expansion.

Only three of the 13 members on a Department of Education panel voted against Community Roots Charter School’s plans for a new middle school on Wednesday, paving the way for sixth-graders to begin classes in the Navy Street building this September.

“We are so excited about Community Roots expanding and we think it’s an important addition to the choices in the neighborhood,” said Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, one of the city’s representatives at the vote.

But parents at PS 287 say the decision punctuates years of unfair treatment by the city, which has forced them to share space with charter schools like the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is slated to move out, while repeatedly nixing their own attempts to add a middle school.

“PS 287 is already a great school where they’ve been moving schools in and out for years,” said Sean Kershaw, whose son is a second-grader at PS 287. “I’m worried [the charter school] will take over some of the school’s facilities.”

City officials insist the building has enough room for both schools.

Anti-charter school parents far outnumbered Community Roots supporters at the emotional meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School, which was delayed many times by angry United Federation of Teachers demonstrators in the audience.

Many PS 287 parents lambasted the city during the public comment period, which lasted for hours, while Community Roots supporters were few and far between.

Tensions erupted last week at a hearing on the charter school plan as well, as a big crowd of Community Roots fans spent two hours extolling their school before PS 287 advocates could even chime in.

The city is big on Community Roots, citing its strong culture of family and community involvement — despite low grades in school progress reports. Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene), who has slammed charter schools in the past, and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have voiced their support for the charter.

Community Roots already operates a charter elementary school inside PS 67 in Fort Greene. Last year, the charter met opposition from PS 67 parents when it tried to expand inside the building.