I.S. 303 continues appeal despite ruling

Published: August 2, 2011 Publication: Home Reporter News By Heather J. Chin BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Heather J. Chin
Protests have accompanied the proposed co-location of Coney Island Preparatory Charter School in the building that houses I.S. 303 and Rachel Carson High School since the idea first surfaced. The final decision on the lawsuit/appeal placed by nearly 100 parents of students attending I.S. 303 against the Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to move a charter school into their building on West Avenue, off of Ocean Parkway, is still a few weeks away, but their appeal has already become part of a larger debate about the legality of co-locations in New York City. On July 21, New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied a UFT and NAACP lawsuit requesting to halt the co-location of 15 public-charter schools into DOE buildings, citing, in part, the DOE’s successful decision to co-locate Coney Island Preparatory Charter School into I.S. 303, which already houses Rachel Carson High School, as justification. “The judge said [the DOE revisions to their Environmental Impact Statement could be done] in less than six months before the school year, but the authority he cited was the commissioner’s decision in the I.S. 303 case,” explained attorney Arthur Z. Schwartz, president of the legal nonprofit Advocates for Justice, which is handling I.S. 303’s appeal. “I don’t think it hurts us,” Schwartz said, pointing out that each case and school is different, “[but] if we’re appealing the commissioner’s ruling, the judge is going to have to look at it more closely… They’re all interconnected.” The decision requiring 1,200 students from I.S. 303 and Rachel Carson to share space with around 400 students from Coney Island Prep was approved on April 28 by the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy. At the core of this controversy, which divided a neighborhood as well as elected officials – Assemblymember William Colton supports the I.S. 303 community, while Councilmember Domenic Recchia put his support behind Coney Island Prep. – is whether additional students would disrupt schedules, alter curricula and pose a safety risk in a building that already houses two schools. Many I.S. 303 parents feel their kids “cannot afford” the risk of such impacts, but the DOE, as well as Coney Island Prep Executive Director Jacob Mnookin, see the move as an opportunity to collaborate on a deal that “would take the safety of the students into mind.” These concerns are echoed in the larger co-location debate. In response to the New York Supreme Court ruling, Chancellor Dennis Walcott stated that he is “incredibly heartened by the court’s decision” and considers the news a “great comfort and relief to the thousands of children who have been in limbo.” However, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio slammed the decision, stating that it “does not mean that these problems [of DOE “mismanagement of school co-locations and closures” pitting parents against one another] have been solved.” Just last week, de Blasio released a new eight-point reform plan for co-locations, with the goal of making the DOE’s decision process more transparent and fair. Among the points are calls to “accurately calculate available school space,” “publicly display all potential class locations,” and “put accurate and easy to understand information online.” The full report can be read at http://advocate.nyc.gov/files/Consensus_for_Reform.pdf. Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed by parents, the advocacy group Class Size Matters, and the NYC Parents Union, alleging the DOE with creating a “separate and unequal” education system by providing illegal free rent and services to charter schools. The original version of this article is published here: http://www.homereporternews.com/news/school_news/i-s-continues-appeal-despite-ruling/article_56439806-bc6f-11e0-956b-001cc4c002e0.html

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