Brooklyn education mavens won’t back controversial charter school’s proposal

Schoolyard rivalry: Watchdogs fight charter expansion

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They want to send this plan back to the chalkboard.

The state must deny a controversial, co-located charter school’s request to boost enrollment, thereby preventing it from taking more space from public schools, education watchdogs say. Coney Island Preparatory Charter School aims to revise its charter to allow 84 more students, but members of the District 21 Community Education Council fear the publicly funded, privately run organization will use a growing student body to justify expansion in the public school buildings it occupies.

“As they over-enroll, those kids need to go somewhere, and they’re just going to take up more of the public school classrooms,” said council vice-president Anna Lembersky. “We will have to give them space, because they did not properly account for enrollment.”

Coney Island Prep houses its elementary and middle schools within IS 281 and IS 303 respectively — parents sued to block the latter co-location in 2011, but the prep school prevailed. If the state allows the enrollment boost, it should only affect the prep’s high-school, which is not co-located in a public school building, according to a letter the council sent the city last month.

The Department of Education and Coney Island Prep refuted the council’s notion the charter revision is precipitating a land-grab, arguing the requested revision would only memorialize the current number of students enrolled with Coney Island Prep — not bring more students into the school.

“This change is not taking additional space from the district schools there,” an education department spokesman said. “It’s just a revision to recognize the number of students actually enrolled in the charter school.”

The council and the district’s superintendant moved their offices out of IS 303 to make room for new programs at the public Rachel Carson High School, which also operates out of IS 303’s campus, but the council’s leader believes she would not have had to move if Coney Island Prep wasn’t taking up space.

“If Coney Island Prep wasn’t located there, Rachel Carson would have had room to expand without offices being moved,” said council president Heather Fiorica.

The Department of Education will make a recommendation to the state Board of Regents this month — after that, the board will decide whether to grant the charter revision.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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