Charter School Wins Latest Round in Fight to Use Upper West Side High School Campus

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A state judge Thursday declined to continue a restraining order that prevented a charter school from starting construction inside an Upper West Side high school. But the charter still hasn't exactly gotten a green light.

The suit was brought by the families of 11 students attending schools in the Brandeis High School's campus. The building currently houses five high schools, including Brandeis - which is in the process of closing because of poor performance. The city claims the site is underutilized and has space for a charter, but parents argue it would get even more crowded with the addition of the Success Academy charter, which would add 184 students in kindergarten and first grade.

But because of a separate lawsuit filed by the NAACP and the teachers union to stop 15 charters — including Upper West Side Success Academy — from sharing space with regular public schools, the Department of Education cannot automatically begin construction, according to attorney Jon Brooks, who represents the parents.

It remains unclear if the Success Academy will be able to start converting some storage rooms at the Brandeis campus into a new cafeteria on Friday as planned.

"The [charter] school intends to open its doors on August 2nd and the children will be starting school on August 24th," said attorney Emily Kim, who represents the charter. "So obviously we're just about a month before that time frame."

Judge Paul Feinman, who declined to continue the restraining order Thursday, is also presiding over the bigger NAACP-teachers union case.

Charters are privately managed but publicly funded, and the Bloomberg administration has given dozens of charters space in local schools to maximize existing resources and to save the charters from having to rent their own buildings. These co-locations have generated friction in some neighborhoods.

The Success Academy chain is run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

The NAACP and the teachers union also sued to stop the city from closing more than 20 failing schools. They originally sought to stop 18 charters from co-locating with regular schools, but three were dropped from the lawsuit after negotiations.


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