Hundreds of Parents Show Up to Hearing to Support Their Charter School's Plans to Expand

Hundreds of parents showed up to a hearing Wednesday night in East Harlem, concerned that the de Blasio administration is not going to let their charter school expand. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

DREAM Charter School says it's exactly the type of school Mayor Bill de Blasio claims he wants to create and support.

"It's extended day, it's extended year, it's high-quality instruction. But it's also things like legal clinics for parents and dental clinics for kids. It's a park out front. It's this beautiful new building," said Rich Berlin, chair of the DREAM Charter School. "It is truly a community school."

But DREAM, like charter schools all across the city, remains on edge. That's because de Blasio ran for mayor saying he would block charters from expanding, though he quickly backed down after suffering through a bruising public relations battle.

So DREAM, an independent charter school run by a well-regarded social services agency, Harlem RBI, believed the city was supporting its plan to expand to high school. The school currently has students in kindergarten through eighth grade. But this week, parents got a flier from the school saying city officials had changed their mind.

"I'm one of many parents who are very nervous right now because we're feeling that no matter what our children can do, no matter what we do, no matter how many times we prove that we're worth it, someone comes down and says, 'No, you're not,'" said parent Natasha Veras.

Hundreds of parents and students showed up to a hearing on the high school proposal Wednesday night to voice their support for the expansion.

"I'm here for my kids," said parent Raven Escalante. "I think that DREAM really needs a high school. They've done so much for our kids already. I don't see why not. And really, what other options do we really have to choose from?"

But just before the meeting, city officials met with the school leadership and assured them the high school expansion is still on the table.

"We hope the voice of our parents tonight will influence that decision in a way that makes everyone in this room happy," Berlin said.

As for the students, they say they're not surprised city officials are listening.

"I was nervous, but then I felt confident because I know that when you try hard enough and you push through, things do happen to go your way," said student Jolita Brettler.

She says that's a lesson she learned in school.

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