The CEC just learned that New York City Charter School of the Arts has requested public school space in District 1 or 2. Recently authorized by SUNY, the school plans to open in August 2016 with 102 students in sixth grade. Given space constraints in District 2, CEC1 is concerned that public school space in District 1 might be granted to NYCCSA, a school to which CEC and community members have already voiced strong opposition.

During the charter application process, NYCCSA committed to operating in private space. The school explained that:

  • “with a commitment from a building owner to lease us private space pending charter approval, we will address demand by expanding the scope of choice by creating more seats without occupying existing DOE space” (PDF, p. 6).
  • The school noted that its “commitment to securing a private facility is in direct response to the community’s feedback that DOE spaces in lower Manhattan are overcrowded, and new spaces ought to be allocated for new seats…without a great deal of support from families to open and co-locate in a DOE building, we dedicated time and resources towards identifying a private space…” (PDF, p. 308).
  • Given its proposed arts-based focused, the school “necessitates large community spaces such [sic] an auditorium, and specialized classrooms where artistic classes can take place. It would be difficult to run high-quality arts program [sic] in the small amount of time that a DOE location would allow for the use of shared auditorium or gym”  (PDF, p. 308).
  • “Given current constraints on space that LES families describe, in addition to the unique physical features we will need in order to faithfully execute our program, we do not anticipate the NYCDOE Division of School Facilities granting our request” (PDF, p. 310).

The CEC is hopeful that NYCCSA is requesting public space from the DOE as a formality, and that the school will honor its commitment to operate in private space. The DOE is aware of the community’s strong opposition to the prospect of NYCCSA occupying space in a public building: Office of District Planning representatives told us in October 2015 that they clearly received the message of the community’s opposition to new co-located charter schools in CSD1.

Such schools drain resources from traditional public schools and tend to under-serve high-needs student populations. These concerns are particularly urgent at the middle school level in CSD1. Manhattan Charter Schools have requested an increase in enrollment and a merger*** and will likely request expansion to the middle grades soon. The prospect of one charter school competing for resources in our traditional public schools’ space is dismaying; two new middle school charter programs in the coming years would pose a serious threat to our existing traditional public school programs.

Next steps in the Office of District Planning’s process include identifying potential space in public schools, conducting walkthroughs and pre-engagement steps, selecting a proposed site, issuing an Educational Impact Statement, and holding a public hearing. We are eager to hear more about these steps and encourage you to stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

***Tomorrow, the CEC will share its concerns with the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships about the proposed revisions to Manhattan Charter School and Manhattan Charter School 2 presented at last night’s public hearing. We will share these concerns with the community as well.