Lack of space leaves charter school 4th-graders in state of limbo
For parents and kids at Success Academy Cobble Hill, their three-year battle with the Department of Education for more classroom space isn’t a political exercise — it’s a daily anxiety.
That’s because the high-performing charter school has never been provided with the promised space for students in grades five to eight within the district, parents say.
Absent a resolution, fourth-graders will be told to apply for competitive seats at two Success Academy middle schools that are three to four miles away — in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Ditmas Park — but the seats aren’t guaranteed. Or they have tentative DOE offers of a school nearly 5 miles away in East Flabush or another that’s an unthinkable 14 miles away in The Bronx.
“It’s all anyone is talking about. Where are we going to go next year? It’s a lot of anxiety,” said Lizzette Muniz, the mother of fourth-grader Lila. “Believe it or not, it’s stressful for the kids, too,” added Muniz. “She’s constantly asking me, ‘Where am I going to go this year? Where am I going to go next year?’ She wants to know.”
Success Academy officials say there are a half-dozen DOE school buildings much closer to Cobble Hill that have hundreds of empty seats — but that aren’t being made available to students. That includes a building on Classon Avenue in Prospect Heights that has 683 seats open, and a building on Dean Street near Downtown Brooklyn that has space for 464, according to the group’s analysis of DOE data.
“The fact that there is all this empty space and the obvious need for it — yet the potential powers can’t quite get it together — is massively frustrating and scary for all of us,” said Murphy Gigliotti, 51, the father of a fourth-grader. “Most people would like something kind of, sort of in their neighborhood that’s not a phenomenal schlep to get to. What we need is a reasonable dispersion of schools so that most people are within at least 15, 20 minutes, as opposed to an hour and a half.”
SA Cobble Hill Principal Alissa Bishop declined to comment.
The tug of war over space between charter schools and traditional public schools is an annual battle that has deepened under the de Blasio administration, which has resisted the non-union, privately operated model.
DOE officials wrote a letter on Nov. 20 offering space to some of Success Academy’s 11 expanding schools but said Cobble Hill students would have to make do with out-of-district options in Brooklyn.
Reached by The Post, DOE officials disputed the network’s assessment of the options as “inaccurate” — pointing to two other Success Academy middle schools in Brooklyn, although they’re farther away.
“As we’ve repeatedly communicated to Success Academy, there are currently three middle-school hubs serving Success Academy students in Brooklyn, and we recently proposed space for a fourth, ensuring that there will be sufficient space in Brooklyn to serve all K-8 Success Academy students next school year,” said DOE spokesman Michael Aciman.
The charter network says the DOE’s proposal offers 1,000 seats in Brooklyn and The Bronx — not the 1,500 needed — and kicks the can for a permanent solution down the road.
“Ultimately, our families in District 15 [Cobble Hill] do not have a permanent middle-school space,” said Success Academy spokeswoman Nicole Sizemore.