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Co-location Victory for Brownsville Academy vs. Success Charter

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 01:56 PM

The Department of Education has reversed a decision to place a charter school in the same building as Brownsville Academy High School, the transfer school which fought the co-location with a student-led lawsuit.

D.O.E. officials said on Wednesday that they found an alternate site for the Success Academy elementary school. They would not say whether the lawsuit played a role in the change.

“While we believed co-locating the two schools was the best option at the time, another better option became available,” said Devon Puglia, a D.O.E. spokesman. “As a result, we decided to propose a new location."

The D.O.E. is now proposing to locate the new charter school at P.S. 167 The Parkway in Crown Heights.

Dozens of Brownsville students fought the co-location with the help of the group New York Communities for Change. Arthur Schwartz, an attorney, filed the suit on the students’ behalf, arguing that co-locating another school in the building would violate the rights of special-needs students who would lose the individualized attention needed in the classroom.

“I don’t know that they really looked that closely at the student population,” Schwartz said of the D.O.E., adding that all of the students, regardless of whether they are considered special education students, have individualized learning plans. The transfer school is meant as a second chance for students who dropped out of high school before, or who did not fare well in a traditional school setting.

The D.O.E. argued late last year that Brownsville Academy had space to spare, proposing it go from utilizing 34 classrooms, for about 240 students, to 12 classrooms under the co-location plan. The Panel for Educational Policy approved the D.O.E.’s plan in December.

Students argued that Brownsville Academy, an A-rated school according the D.O.E.’s progress report, is successful because students are in small classes and have extra space for things like an art room and a writing lab, important extra-curricular activities for struggling students.

The new D.O.E. proposal makes the students' lawsuit moot, according to the city’s law department.

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