Monday, September 22, 2014

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Brooklyn Charter School In Danger Of Closing Before End Of First Year

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When education officials proposed a new charter school in Williamsburg, community members said there wasn't any need. The school opened this fall, and it turns out the critics may have been right. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

A new charter school opened last month in Williamsburg. This week, it was put on probation, leaving Citizens of the World Charter School 1 at risk of being closed before the end of its first year, something that's never happened to a city charter school.

"So many families in Brooklyn are looking for an educational option like we're providing," said Mark Comanducci of Citizens of the World Charter School.

If so, the school's had a hard time finding them.

It's rare for city charters to go on probation or be closed. When that's happened, it's been because of management issues or low student performance. But in this case, it's enrollment.

"There was no need for this elementary school to open in the first place," said Brooke Parker, who is part of a local parent group that's been opposed to the school since it was first proposed nearly two years ago.

"They haven't been able to come up with enough students over the past year because there has been no demand in my community," she said.

Her group has argued that local parents already had enough choices between existing schools, each of which was already under-enrolled.

Citizens of the World ran three charters in Los Angeles before getting the go-ahead from the SUNY Charter School Board of Trustees to open the Williamsburg school.

To be approved, charters have to demonstrate local community demand, but in this case, SUNY noted that it "received a number of comments...both in support of and in opposition to the proposed school." It did not note the specific number in support, but did include the number opposed: "281 e-mails, 182 postcards and 32 letters."

"They've been approving almost every single school," Parker said.

The school was supposed to serve 126 students this year, but there were only 62 by the end of September, and according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, only four came from the neighborhood.

"Anyone that comes, we are going to take," Comanducci said. "We don't turn anyone away."

The school now has 78 students, but the SUNY charter board says it must enroll a minimum of 100. It has a month to find 22 more.

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