Brooklyn Prospect Charter in relocation controversies

A combination of mayoral budget cuts and Department of Education(DOE) decisions is pitting advocates of several Sunset Park andPark Slope educational institutions against one another, andcommunity advocates are increasingly at odds over whether to takethe bait or band together.

The months-long controversy surrounding where to house BrooklynProspect Charter School for the 2011-2012 school year has gained anew dimension as it not only remains listed on the DOE’s website asa potential candidate to stay inside the Sunset Park High Schoolbuilding, but is rumored to be the prospective new leaseholder at238-242 Hoyt Street – where two day care centers have resided foryears and are now being ordered to vacate as a result of the citybudget axe.

The Brooklyn Prospect Board of Trustees and staff have togethermade the decision to sign a lease that provides for private interimspace at 238-242 Hoyt Street, wrote Daniel Rubenstein, theschool’s executive director/principal, in a letter to parents datedJune 7.

The day care centers – Strong Place Day Care and Bethel Day Care -received the news of their fate on June 9, the Administration forChildren Services stating that their last day of operation is to beFriday, June 17. Families are now scrambling to find alternativecare options. Strong Place director Loraine Pennis is planning aprotest for Friday.

I’m very hurt [that] this was done without the involvement of thelocal community [and] local officials despite the fact that we weretrying to save these day cares, said Councilmember Steve Levin,whose former aide Hope Reichbach, advocated for the day carecenters before her sudden death in April.

At Sunset Park High School, where administrators face a reducednumber of classrooms and programs for students if Brooklyn Prospectstays in the building next year, supporters are not giving thanksjust yet.

If that’s true, the potential of losing two day care centers iscertainly bittersweet, said Community Board Seven District ManagerJeremy Laufer. But until we hear from the DOE, we’re stillplanning for [co-location]. A [protest] rally is still beingplanned for June 21, the day of the DOE public hearing.

The announcements come at a moment when tension is already high forall parties involved: public schools face shrinking budgets andstaff, charter schools are simultaneously welcomed and reviled, andday care centers are struggling to fight the loss of eight centersand hundreds of classrooms and jobs.

Ultimately, though, it’s all about the children and for BrooklynProspect parents, being at the center of two hot-buttoncontroversies does not make anything easier.

From a parent’s perspective, it’s just perpetual disruption andconfusion, which does not tend to foster stability, added RichardGuay, a Brooklyn Prospect parent whose daughter is in the seventhgrade. If the administration has to spend an undue amount of timeon issues the DOE should handle like location, structures andrepairs, the emphasis on the education of the children tends to beattenuated.

It’s distressing for all concerned, said Guay. Everybody’s beenoverpromised and underserved. It’s like every time the DOE tries tofix the process, they exacerbate it. What the DOE does, pittinggroups against each other, creates an animus that shouldn’t bethere. We should be existing together, not helping one bydisadvantaging another. I would like to see everyone get a spot,with sensible planning.

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