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State Blocks Charter School From Moving Into PS 9 in Brooklyn

Friday, April 01, 2011

The education commissioner overturned the decision to place a city charter school inside the PS 9 building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Commissioner David Steiner issued a 16-page ruling that came down on the side of several PS 9 parents who filed a lawsuit claiming the Department of Education's proposal to move Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School had many failings though he didn't fully agree with them.

"I am unable to conclude that DOE's failure to comply with the statute's requirements in this respect was harmless error," Steiner wrote.

The story was first reported by GothamSchools.org.

He found that the city's plan to have a total of three schools sharing the same building didn't give enough gym and library time to the children of PS 9.

Catherine Jhung, whose son attends kindergarten at PS 9, was among the group of parents that appealed the co-location of the charter school into their school's building.

"The general feeling has been that nobody's really listening and that the DOE has an agenda that they're pushing all over the city, meeting with little resistance and really kind of just doing what they want to do," said Jhung. "And we strongly felt that the process and that their plans, the educational impact statement, the building utilization plan, were absolutely flawed."

The DOE was set to move the charter school to PS 9 this fall. The plan was it would grow to include grades 5 through 8 (right now it's just for fifth graders). Space would be cleared as another school in the building, MS 571, was gradually phased out for poor performance.

But parents at PS 9 wanted their school to expand from its current Pre-K through fifth grade configuration to include grades 6 through 8. Jhung said she and others still hope that can happen if the charter school is delayed long enough.

The commissioner's decision means Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter can't relocate to PS 9 unless the city submits a new building usage plan that's approved by the state. Time is running out. But the DOE said it's still committed, and the charter's operator says it's confident.

Still, uncertainty about the charter's location inside PS 9 is bound to cause angst for parents who want their children to attend the growing charter school.

Laura Lee McGovern, chief operating officer for Collegiate Network, which runs the charter, said 870 students applied for 81 slots.

Applications were due Friday for all city charter schools and lotteries are being held next week.

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