UPDATE: A representative for Opportunity Charter School replied to a request for comment after this story was published, stating it does not want to increase enrollment and plans to decrease class size to accommodate growth.
HARLEM — Education leaders say a special-needs charter school that wants to add elementary grades shouldn't be allowed to expand at the cost of public school space.
The sixth-through-12th-grade Opportunity Charter School — which currently shares space with the charter Success Academy Harlem 4 and the public P.S. 241 — recently applied for approval to serve grades K-5.
The school, which opened in 2004 on West 113th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. boulevards, focuses on students with special-needs and behavioral emotional issues.
Opportunity Charter School was nearly closed by the Department of Education in 2012 for poor performance, but was given a second chance after local leaders rallied around the school because of the needy population it serves.
It's up for renewal again this year and wants to expand the grades it serves, according to the DOE. The school currently serves 420 students.
Meanwhile, the building that Opportunity Charter School shares is about to get roomier. The DOE has proposed moving P.S. 241 to P.S. 76 on West 121st Street as a way of helping the former school's dwindling enrollment. The move still needs approval from the Panel on Education Policy next week.
Community Education Council 3 members said at a Wednesday meeting at the Joan of Arc school on West 93rd Street that while they support the charter's unique mission, they don't want it to expand at the cost of public school seats.
"Opportunity is one of the only charter schools that educates special-education kids. It’s been a good neighbor," said CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum.
And, "in the past DOE has tried to close it and this council supported it," he said.
However Gotbaum and other members said they'd like to see another public school fill the space vacated by P.S. 241, rather than either of the two co-located charter schools, Success Academy or Opportunity Charter.
The charter school's director of marketing and communications explained that Opportunity does not want to increase enrollment, just the number of grades it serves.
"While OCS plans to add grades K-5 and become a K-12 school focused on serving students with learning disabilities, we intend to maintain the current average yearly student enrollment," Jason Maymon said.
"This will happen through attrition and a reduction in class sizes that will take place over the next five years. We respect the position of Community Education Council 3 and look forward to working with them to ensure that all students in the district have access to a quality education."
The public has the opportunity to weigh in on the charter's renewal and proposed expansion on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the school at 240 West 113th St.