The city wants to jam a ballooning charter school into IS 303 on West Avenue, even though that building already holds a middle school, a high school, and classes for special-needs children — and angry parents of students at 303 say cramming so many different age groups together is a bad idea.
“These children will be ranging in different ages,” said IS 303 parent Donna Bisagno. “Grade school children will be walking with junior high and high school kids. It will be a serious safety issue.”
Department of Education officials say they want to “co-locate” the Coney Island Preparatory Charter School, which outgrew its space inside the Carey Gardens Community Center on Surf Avenue near W. 23rd Street, to the block-long IS 303, located near Ocean Parkway, for at least two years as it looks for a permanent home.
Charter school administrators want to add 350 new students to the school building by 2013.
But IS 303, which has more than 700 students, already has two roommates — Rachel Carson High School, with 450 ninth through 12th grade students, along with a program for more than 20 special education students.
If Coney Island Preparatory moves into the school, the building will be holding a whopping 1,520 students, but city officials say it will still be 200 students under capacity.
The news came as a shock to parents who were happy with the recent grades the once-floundering school had recently achieved. Last year, IS 303 received As and Bs on its progress reports, and some parents think the influx of students will reverse the gains the troubled school has made over the last few years.
But the city claims all the schools can work together, at least in the short term, since IS 303 students are taking up more space than they need to.
“IS 303 is currently using nearly double the number of rooms that it should be allocated,” the city’s Department of Education noted in its 26-page proposal. “Unlike most middle schools, IS 303’s sixth and seventh grade students do not move from class to class. Students remain in their homeroom throughout the day except for when they are scheduled for a group activity or lunch recess.”
Department of Education spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said the current proposal is the best option available to students in Coney Island.
“We’re making sure that families have access to two great middle schools and doing so in a way that still lets IS 303 keep important programs,” he said.