Parents Lose Legal Challenge To Controversial Charter School

By Leslie Albrecht on August 13, 2011 3:44pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents lost their battle Friday to keep a controversial charter school from opening inside an Upper West Side high school building.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul G. Feinman dismissed a legal challenge by parents hoping to prevent Upper West Success Academy from "co-locating" — sharing space — with existing high schools at the Brandeis Educational Campus on West 84th Street.

The move means Upper West Success Academy's 190 kindergarteners will start school this month inside the Brandeis building. The lawsuit's dismissal ends months of uncertainty for those students and their parents.

"This is a victory for parents," said Success Academy charter school network founder Eva Moskowitz in a statement. "We are excited to roll up our sleeves at Upper West Success Academy and show that charter schools can help all children thrive, no matter what neighborhood the school is located or where the students are from."

Marc A. Landis, the attorney for the parents who sued to stop the co-location, said he would review the decision with his clients and "consider all available options."

Upper West Side public school parents, elected officials and Community Board 7 fought for months to keep Upper West Success Academy from moving into an existing public school building. Parents said the charter school, which is a public school, would take classroom space and resources away from non-charter students.

At rallies and protests, parents and teachers argued that Moskowitz's charter schools have a poor track record of sharing space with other public schools. They said it wasn't appropriate to move the charter school's kindergarten students into a building where they'll be alongside high school students.

Upper West Success Academy officials contended the charter school would bring much-needed high-quality educational options to a neighborhood plagued with failing schools.

In court filings, Upper West Success Academy officials argued the charter school would be "placed in an under-utilized space within Brandeis, and so cause no harm to the existing schools" and that some of the classrooms allocated to the charter school are currently used to store file cabinets and extra furniture.

The charter school faced a second legal challenge when the teachers' union sought to stop several school closures and charter school co-locations. Fienman, who was also the judge in that case, denied the union's challenge in July.

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