$23K-Per-Year Private School Opening in Red Hook With No Scholarships

By Nikhita Venugopal on November 19, 2013 10:18am 

 A 1,000-seat private school for kindergarten through 12th grade was approved for 556 Columbia St. in Red Hook last Thursday night.
A 1,000-seat private school for kindergarten through 12th grade was approved for 556 Columbia St. in Red Hook last Thursday night.
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Facebook/Basis Independent Brooklyn

RED HOOK — An Arizona-based charter school operator is building a private school in Red Hook that will charge $23,500 in annual tuition — and the school won't offer any scholarships to local kids next year.

The 1,000-seat Basis Independent School, which will be located in a five-story building at 556 Columbia St., will feature 43 classrooms, a 389-seat black box theater, a gymnasium and a parking garage with 42 spaces and an elevator, according to the school’s architect and officials.

The school is just a few blocks from Brooklyn's largest NYCHA housing development, Red Hook Houses East and West, and median household income for the immediate area is $16,748, according to recent data.

Mark Reford, CEO of Basis Schools, told Community Board 6 last week that he decided to build the school in Red Hook because of its proximity to Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Williamsburg, but that he also hoped the school could help Red Hook as well.

“We are fully committed to be an enrichment to the Red Hook neighborhood,” Redford said. 

He said the school has no plans to offer scholarships when it opens in the fall of 2014 but he hopes to offer scholarships in the future.

CB6 approved a special zoning permit for the school's construction last week on the condition that scholarships are earmarked for Red Hook children and that the company never convert the space into a charter school.

This is the first private school that Basis has opened. The company runs charter schools in Texas, Washington, D.C. and Arizona.

CB6 members said at the landmarks and land use committee meeting last Thursday night at Miccio Center in Red Hook that they felt strongly that the neighborhood did not need any more charter schools.

CB6 also recommended that Basis work with local nonprofits and community leaders to help determine a percentage of scholarships that will be set aside for students in Red Hook in the future.

The property is not currently zoned for school use, but the school’s developer, HighMark, has applied for a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals to allow construction of the 89,556-square-foot building.

CB6 will take a final vote on the permit at the full board meeting on Dec. 11 and then it will go to the city for approval.

Basis Independent has already started its admissions process, which may require interviews and tests. They plan to open next fall with kindergarten through 10th-grade classes and will add on the 11th and 12th-grade classes in the following years. Tuition for all grades is $23,500 per year, according to Reford and the school's website.

The school will feature environmentally friendly elements including bike racks, insulation made of recycled newspaper and an elevated location above the floodplain, said Stephen Grasso, the architect on the project.

Since the school will be located beside the Red Hook recreation center, community members asked whether officials planned to use the grounds for their physical education classes.

“Athletics is not a very important part of our curriculum,” said Reford, adding that the school would apply for permits if the administrators decided they wanted to use the center.

Basis, instead, will focus heavily on academics, particularly the liberal arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), he said. The curriculum relies heavily on Advanced Placement and college-level courses in the upper school, according to the school's website.

Reford hopes to bring the local community into the school, engaging arts, dance and theater groups to work with the students, he said. 

“Red Hook is clearly filled with people who are creators,” he said. “We want to be a part of that community.”

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