Win-win for Sunset Park students as Brooklyn Prospect moves to Bishop Ford

Some good news for the students, parents and teachers in SunsetPark!

Students from Sunset Park High School (SPHS) and BrooklynProspect Charter School (BPCS) will not be sharing a schoolbuilding come September. Instead, students from Brooklyn Prospectwill be moving into empty classrooms at Bishop Ford High School, on19th Street and Ninth Avenue, in Windsor Terrace.

The $500,000 lease was finalized on Friday, July 22, and willlast for the 2011-2012 school year, plus the 2012-2013 school yearif the space is needed.

The news comes after months of often contentious negotiating,rallies, protests and conflicting reports from the Department ofEducation (DOE) over where the charter school would hold classeswhile its permanent campus at 270 Douglass Street in Gowanus isbuilt.

Proposed locations have been P.S. 32 in Boerum Hill, whichcurrently houses two day care centers, and Sunset Park High School,where BPCS has been for the past two years.

The feeling of relief and delight was immediate.

For months, we looked for a building that was the right sizeand location and also appropriate for children, and we couldn’thave found a better space to meet all of our needs, said BPCSExecutive Director Daniel Rubenstein. It means so much that theneighborhood came together in support of our students.

It’s absolutely awesome, miraculous, amazing and a tribute tothe incredible hard work of so many people, said Julie SteinBrockway, who led the SPHS Task Force. It is the win-win-win wehad talked about…and it couldn’t have been possible withoutcommunity output.

This is also a win for Bishop Ford, whose president, RaymondNash, said that in addition to collaborating with BPCS to providea great education to all of their students, he is hopeful that[the charter school’s] unique program will enable Bishop Ford toattract some of their outstanding children to attend Bishop Ford inthe future.

The two schools – one Catholic and one public-charter – willmaintain separate programs in the building, with BPCS’ nearly 300sixth through eighth graders utilizing around a dozenclassrooms.

The deal does not necessarily establish a precedent as thedecision to lease space to BPCS was made solely by Bishop Ford,with no involvement from the Roman Catholic Diocese ofBrooklyn.

This victory against forced co-location – when the DOE decidesthat more than one school will share a building, classroom spaceand resources – is a rare bright spot in a climate whereco-locations and school closures are upheld by both the DOE and thecourts.

On July 21, New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman deniedthe UFT and NAACP request to halt the closures of 22 schools andco-location of 15 public-charter schools into DOE buildings. Inresponse, Chancellor Dennis Walcott stated that he is incrediblyheartened by the court’s decision and considers the news a greatcomfort and relief to the thousands of children who have been inlimbo.

Meanwhile, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio slammed the court’sruling, stating that it does not mean that these problems [of DOEmismanagement of school co-locations and closures pitting parentsagainst one another] have been solved.

Earlier last week, de Blasio had released an eight-point reformplan for co-locations, with the goal of making the DOE’s decisionprocess more transparent and fair. Among the points are calls toaccurately calculate available school space, publicly displayall potential class locations, and put accurate and easy tounderstand information online.

The full report can be read at

Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed by parents, the advocacygroup Class Size Matters and the NYC Parents Union, alleging theDOE creates a separate and unequal education system by providingillegal free rent and services to charter schools.

Another lawsuit has a collective of parents from I.S. 303 inGravesend challenging the DOE’s decision to co-locate Coney IslandPreparatory Charter School into its building, which already housesa high school; that suit is still pending.

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