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Success Academy Charter School Wants More Manhattan Classroom Space

By Mathew Katz | March 30, 2012 8:51am
Members of the District 2 Community Education Council voted against Success Academy's plan to co-locate in local schools.
Members of the District 2 Community Education Council voted against Success Academy's plan to co-locate in local schools.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

MANHATTAN — A controversial charter school organization wants to take space from existing schools in its aggressive push to open six new Success Academy schools in the city by the fall of next year — angering parents who say the schools are already too full to accommodate more students.

Success Academy has put in a bid to open up two 675-student schools inside "underutilized public school buildings within Community School Districts 2, 4, 13, and 17," with the exact locations to be chosen by the city Department of Education from a list of schools with excess empty seats, according to the charter's application.

"We hope the DOE can find us space for the two schools we want to open to meet the growing demand in District 2 for high-quality options," said Success Academy spokeswoman Kerri Lyon. "We know that there’s currently much more demand for great school seats than there are seats avaible as evidenced by waitlists across the district.”

A spokesman for the DOE said that if Success Academy's District 2 charter is granted by the state, the city will begin to look at under-utilized spaces it could provide to the school. The spokesman could not comment on specifics at this point.

The list of potential buildings for Success Academy includes P.S. 11, Washington Irving High School, the Clinton School, P.S. 158 and Park West High School. However, a spokeswoman for Success Academy said that the DOE would likely not grant them space in a school with fewer than 500 empty seats.

But parents in the district, which includes Downtown, Chelsea, the West Village and the Upper East Side, said their neighborhoods already have huge waiting lists at several schools, and that if the charter schools move into the buildings, they will exacerbate the problem in the future.

"If we look through this list, there are no spaces within this district that are not already being identified for future use or already being grown into," said Eric Goldberg, a member of the district's Community Education Council, which unanimously voted against the charter's proposal for co-location within their schools at a meeting Wednesday night.

"If Success Academy is targeting district space, it will be to push into a building that's already overcrowded, in a zone that's already over capacity," he added.

The charter school network, led by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, has faced staunch opposion from parents who say it siphoned scarce resources away from existing schools in opening nine locations across the city, including on the Upper West Side, Harlem and Williamsburg.

Other board members worried that the school could pull in students from other zones — and even other districts.

"Charters themselves would pose as if they are overcrowding relievers, because they pull from more than one zone," said CEC member Michael Markowitz.

"While it might be true they alleviate overcrowding in a zoned school, their presence that predicatively grows if it's within a zoned school actually drives up that school zone's wait-list problem."

Community members and school advocates across the city fought losing battles against Success Academies moving into public schools, claiming that the charters eventually take an unfair share of space.

"Every school building they go into, they end up taking over," said Noah Gotbaum, the former president of the District 3 Community Education Council, who battled co-location in Upper West Side schools. "It's been a disaster for our public schools."

Parents said that the few District 2 schools without wait-lists were only able to avoid them because they have excess seats that they can grow into. P.S. 11, which had no wait-list this year, used to be co-located with the Clinton School.

Since they separated in 2010, parents from both schools said the overcrowding problem has virtually disappeared. Both are now on the DOE's list of underutilized schools.

"We're just getting our sea legs at this school," said Miles Chapin, who heads up the Parent Association at the Clinton School.

"To put another school in there is not a good idea."