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Officials Worry About Charter Moving to Bushwick Building With 2 Schools

By Serena Dai | January 14, 2015 8:46am
 I.S. 347 and I.S. 349 are fighting a charter co-location at their school at 35 Starr St.
I.S. 347 and I.S. 349 are fighting a charter co-location at their school at 35 Starr St.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

BUSHWICK — Public school leaders and local officials are gearing up to fight a charter high school's bid to move into a Bushwick building with two existing middle schools, fearing the space is too small to accommodate three schools.

Achievement First University Prep Charter High School is looking to use space at 35 Starr St., which already houses I.S. 347 and I.S. 349.

Leaders at the two public schools, along with Councilman Antonio Reynoso and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, have been calling on parents to attend a Wednesday evening hearing to voice opposition to the plan.

"While our community has faced tremendous housing, economic, and education challenges," a letter from Reynoso and school officials to parents said, "we must stand united to ensure our children’s academic future prevails."

Achievement First would offer grades 9 through 11 in the 2015-2016 school year and grades 9 through 12 after that.

It's projected to enroll between 420 and 520 students by the 2018-2019 school year, according to the school's educational impact statement.

I.S. 347 has 327 students enrolled this year, while I.S. 349 has 357.

Communal space like the cafeteria could be tight with an additional school in the building, officials said.

Lunch is already served as early as 10:30 a.m. to accommodate the current students, according to the letter from Reynoso and school leaders. The school has just one communal staircase, and school officials are worried about the safety of middle schoolers and high schoolers sharing it.

I.S. 349 is also part of the "School Renewal Program," which is intended to transform the school into a community hub with resources outside of class.

Parents and school officials are worried that adding a charter school to the building will "jeopardize necessary space for those community services," such as bilingual classes and immigration services, said Kevin Worthington, a Reynoso staffer who has been meeting with parents and the school.

"Whether we’re talking about coordinating dismissal, coordinating lunch, gym sessions, or the library — those are the logistical questions behind that co-location," he said.

Achievement did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The building at 35 Starr St. is designated as underutilized, with the capacity for more than 1,400 students, according to Achievement's proposal to the DOE.

In 2013, the Panel for Educational Policy approved a K-5 school called New Public Charter School PAVE II to join the space, but the school ultimately withdrew its proposal.

The public hearing for Achievement's proposal will be on Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 35 Starr St., at 6 p.m.

Locals can also submit written comments to D32Proposals@schools.nyc.gov or call 212-374-0208.