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New Private School Meets Community Resistance Ahead of Planned Fall Opening

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A new school planned for Brooklyn is on track to open this fall, but not without causing some controversy. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

The piles are being driven into the ground as a pricey private school called BASIS Independent Brooklyn builds its foundation in Red Hook. Located next to Ikea and the Red Hook Community Farm, this site is the first in the city for the Arizona-based school network.

"Well, Brooklyn's amazing, right?" said Jill McConnell, head of school at BASIS Independent Brooklyn. "I mean, Brooklyn is everything. It is the energy center of the United States, so we are very, very excited about being in Brooklyn."

The six-story structure will be assembled from modules constructed in Arizona and shipped here.

The city recently gave its approval for the project, but there's been some community resistance.

"I think some people were flattered, and some people were offended that they were looking at Red Hook," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6.

There was also some confusion. BASIS operates charter schools in Arizona, Texas and Washington, D.C., but this is their first private school. Then, there's the more than $23,000 yearly tuition in a neighborhood with one of the city's largest public housing complexes.

The community board questioned the benefits to the neighborhood and voted against the project, but the school talked about its value, both in terms of money and in its results.

The school's headquarters in DUMBO displays examples of its national success. It said it will operate the same way here.

"We have the sciences taught as separate subjects," McConnell said. "So students, beginning in the sixth grade, have chemistry in a chemistry laboratory taught by a chemist, physics in a physics laboratory and biology in a biology laboratory."

The school runs from kindergarten through high school and will be busing students in. It can hold about 1,000 students. So far, 285 have applied.

As a concession to community demands, it said it will be offering two scholarships to Red Hook students for their entire school enrollment. BASIS said it plans to be a good neighbor.

First day of school is scheduled for September 15.

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