Controversial Red Hook School Offers Two Scholarships for Local Kids

By Nikhita Venugopal on January 31, 2014 10:26am 

Slideshow
 Community Board 6 overwhelmingly opposed a plan for a Basis Independent Brooklyn, new $23,000-per-year private school in Red Hook Dec. 11.
Basis Independent Brooklyn
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RED HOOK — A controversial private school that’s planned for Red Hook will offer two full scholarships for local students, schools officials told DNAinfo New York.

Basis Independent Brooklyn, a proposed 1,000-seat private school that will charge $23,500 in annual tuition, has created two scholarship opportunities for incoming Red Hook kindergarten students beginning this year, said Jill McConnell, the newly appointed head of the school.

The scholarships will be awarded exclusively to two new local kids every year and will continue through the students’ academic career at Basis, she said.

“That’s a long-term commitment to the wellbeing of that student and to the academic success of that student,” McConnell said in a recent interview.

“We are really looking to address the needs of the Red Hook community.”

When Red Hook first learned about Basis Independent Brooklyn last November, no scholarships were planned for this year. There will be no other scholarships offered for 2014, but the school hopes to create more in the future.

Additional funding was secured to help pay for the scholarships, although McConnell was not immediately clear on its source.

McConnell hoped the opportunity would allow more students to experience Basis’ rigorous curriculum, which heavily focuses on liberal arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In upper classes, the school focuses on Advanced Placement and college-level courses.

”We want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We certainly want good communication.”

But Red Hook residents weren’t thrilled by the gesture.

“What is two scholarships when you have thousands of students in Red Hook?” said Lillie Marshall, president of the tenants’ association for Red Hook Houses West, one half of the largest public housing complex in Brooklyn.

While Marshall said a school representative met with her in December to discuss the school’s location, she was not informed of the scholarship program.

Red Hook has a population of about 12,400 people, including about 6,000 residents in the public housing buildings, according to 2010 census data.

“It kind of becomes a lottery ticket for people in the neighborhood,” said Red Hook resident Chris Hammett.

Basis Independent Brooklyn, which plans to open this fall, failed to win the backing of Community Board 6 last December because of its “inappropriate” location in Red Hook and the school’s lack of communication with local residents.

CB6 voted against an application from the Board of Standards and Appeals after residents overwhelmingly opposed the proposal from school’s operators to build an 89,556-square-foot building at 556 Columbia St., which isn’t zoned for school use. The BSA will review the application in February.

Other residents questioned the school’s location in Red Hook on a plot of land that’s currently zoned for industrial use.

Corbin Laedlein, who started a petition last year asking CB6 to delay their decision on the school so the community could learn more about it, said the scholarships served only as a distraction from real problems the school presents for Red Hook.

“The fact is that the vast majority of people have no chance to attend the school,” he said.

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