School’s in at IS 303

Coney Island’s IS 303 is about to be filled to the brim.

The state Education Department ruled last Wednesday that the Coney Island Prep charter school could move into IS 303’s West Avenue school house, rejecting parents concerns that the school is already overcrowded.

Education Commissioner David Steiner dismissed IS 303’s parents association’s claims that adding Coney Island Prep into the mix would be devastating for student services. IS 303 already has more than 700 students, while Rachel Carson HS has 450 students and hosts a program for 20 special education students. According to the city’s plan, Rachel Carson HS won’t be losing any classrooms, so IS 303 will have to bear the brunt of the new students on its own.

Parents say that if Coney Island Prep moves in, the building will be holding a whopping 1,520 students — far more than it can handle.

Yet Steiner agreed with the city’s claim that the building can easily accommodate the additional numbers.

“[Parents] have not offered any proof to contradict [the city’s] statement or to otherwise indicate that [education] would be adversely impacted,” reads the state’s decision.

IS 303 parents complained that giving up 11 classrooms to the charter would lead to overcrowded classes and jeopardize IS 303’s lauded self-containment model — a program that keeps students in their home room throughout the day instead of moving from class to class like most junior high kids.

But some parents weren’t surprised that the state shot down their appeal.

“I was quite sure Coney Island Prep would come in,” said Parents Association President Julia Danlily. “The city usually gets to do what it wants.”

Neither Principal Gary Ingrassia of IS 303 or Coney Island Prep Principal Jacob Mnookin could be reached for comment, but Mnookin has continually said that his charter deserves to share space with IS 303.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can share the space and make it work,” he said in April.

The city’s current plan states that Coney Island Prep, a middle school that outgrew its space inside the Carey Gardens Community Center on Surf Avenue near W. 23rd Street, will stay in IS 303 for two years. Mnookin’s said he’s currently working with the city to find a more permanent home for the school, which is expected to grow to the 550 students within six years.

Chris Owens of Advocates for Justice, the legal group who filed the appeal on behalf of the IS 303 parents pro bono, said that he will meet with the parents to discuss a potential second appeal.