Charters have won the day in Southern Brooklyn.
The DeBlasio administration decided to allow a pair of controversial new charter schools to move into the buildings of two Southern Brooklyn junior high schools — while simultaneously scrapping a plan to “co-locate” a new public school inside the building of a beleaguered Gravesend high school.
After a citywide review of so-called “co-location” plans approved in the waning days of the Bloomberg administration, the Department of Education announced on Feb. 27 that Joseph Cavallaro middle school in Bath Beach and Seth Low Intermediate in Gravesend will have to open their doors to grammar schools run by Coney Island Prep and Success Academy, respectively. At the same time, the city decided that John Dewey High School on Avenue X will not have to share space with a traditional district school.
All three building-sharing plans, along with dozens of others across the city, were passed in the last months of 2013, in the face of widespread public opposition. Soon after taking office, the new mayor promised to carefully review all of the proposals pushed through during Bloomberg’s final months, and the Department of Education said it took the best interests of students and parents into account when making its decision.
“As enrollment deadlines approach, we considered the thousands of families that could be affected,” said new schools chancellor Carmen Farina. “We were deliberate in our decisions and, under the circumstances we inherited, believe this is the best approach.”
School leaders applauded the decision to stop a new school from moving in with Dewey — which has long been targeted for closure — but lamented what they described as the loss of vital space at the pair of middle schools.
Officials at Cavallaro and Seth Low argued that the existing schools are already near-capacity and need the room both to accommodate new junior high kids, and for special needs children who require a separate space during state exams. They also questioned the wisdom of having Kindergarten through fifth grade students sharing a building with middle schoolers.
“Our community is growing, we need this space,” said Heather Fiorica, president of Community Education Council District 21, the official oversight organization for Dewey, Seth Low, and Cavallaro. “They’re going to need junior high school seats. They’re giving my junior high school seats to elementary school students.”
But the charter schools are not smiling either, noting that Farina blocked three new charter schools in other parts of the city — a decision that charter-school proponents argued will hurt children.
“This isn’t a case where you can split the difference and declare victory,” said Success Academy spokeswoman Kerri Lyon. “When even one child is denied a high quality public education, we are not fulfilling our civic and moral promise to put them on the road to success.”
Coney Island Prep did not respond to repeated requests for comment.