Fresh from a bruising battle to open a charter school on the Upper West Side, Eva S. Moskowitz, the former city councilwoman who runs a network of charters in New York City, is gearing up to expand into middle-class areas by opening a school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, next fall.
The city has begun reaching out to neighborhood residents and leaders, continuing its push to turn charter schools into viable options for middle-class families whose neighborhood schools are too crowded or too weak to be attractive.
It is a pre-emptive move to keep some of those families from trading public for private schools or leaving New York City altogether, lured by the quality and stability of suburban school districts, city officials said.
The new school, to be named Success Academy Cobble Hill, is one of three schools Ms. Moskowitz plans to open in Brooklyn next year. The others would be in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where her network, Success Academies, already has a presence, and in a gentrifying section of Williamsburg, where it was enticed by a group of parents of young children who live there.
The schools, eventually to serve students from kindergarten through eighth grade, would share space with existing public schools, opening the doors for new fights against placing charter schools in buildings already occupied by traditional public schools.
The dispute over Ms. Moskowitz’s Upper West Success Academy was lengthy and costly, culminating in an unsuccessful lawsuit to try to keep the school from opening. It welcomed its first students on Aug. 24, two weeks ahead of the four high schools with which it shares a building.
Ms. Moskowitz said she expected some protests against the Cobble Hill school but was ready to use the same counteroffensive strategies she deployed on the Upper West Side, hosting house parties and other mixers to win over parents.
“There’s a deep anticharter sentiment out there, and I’m sure there will be opposition coming from that corner,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “But if you’re a parent with kids, you need a school, you’ve got to find an option. You can’t wait six months into the school year to find a spot for your child in kindergarten.”
Cobble Hill is similar to the Upper West Side in several ways. It is diverse in ethnic and economic terms, but its core is solidly well-to-do and primarily white. The school district it is in, District 15, has a small number of sought-after elementary schools whose buildings are near or over capacity, but, according to the most recent city statistics, most other schools have room to spare.
Public School 29 is 70 seats short of reaching its limit of 750 students, and its kindergarten enrollment went up by roughly 50 percent between the 2006-7 and 2010-11 school years. At P.S. 58 nearby, the number of kindergartners grew by 70 percent in the same period, in a building that is now operating at 110 percent capacity, data show.
“Kindergarten enrollment in this neighborhood has grown significantly over the last five years, so we want to take the proactive step of proposing a new, excellent elementary school for this community,” Marc Sternberg, the Education Department’s deputy schools chancellor for portfolio planning, said in a statement. “The Success Charter Network is an organization with a strong track record, and we anticipate that there will be great interest in this school in the community.”
Generally, the Education Department looks to place new schools in buildings that have at least 300 available seats, and at least two buildings in the area fit the bill. The building shared by the Math and Science Exploratory School and Brooklyn High School of the Arts has 654 open seats; the one that houses Brooklyn School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies has 690 seats available.
The department has not decided where to put the new charter schools, a spokeswoman said.
Jenny Sedlis, a director at Ms. Moskowitz’s organization, said the schools’ admissions criteria had not been set, but for the Cobble Hill school, at least, the goal is to give preference to children who live in the district.
She said the school there would open with 190 kindergarten and first-grade seats, accommodating some 600 students once all grades have been introduced.