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After rejecting one potential home, Hebrew school seeks another

After announcing at the eleventh hour that it was giving up on moving into a Marine Park public school building, a new charter school is struggling to come up with a plan B. The school says it is still pursuing the possibility of moving into public space before its Aug. 24 opening date, but the city is suggesting that the possibility is a remote one.

The Hebrew Language Academy charter school on Friday withdrew its bid for space at a middle school in Brooklyn’s Marine Park neighborhood, days after a protest against the school drew hundreds of angry community members. “After the CEC public hearing on Tuesday, no matter how much we believe that we would be good neighbors, it was obvious that we could not accomplish our goals at I.S. 278 in Marine Park,” the school’s founder, Sara Berman, said in a statement this weekend.

A spokesman for the school, Dan Gerstein, told me today that HLA is “regrouping and moving as quickly and aggressively at finding an alternate site,” and that it is continuing to seek space in an existing public school. He said the school is also considering private space and is working closely with the department to find a suitable home for the school.

A DOE spokeswoman, Melody Meyer, says the school is not currently being considered for public space. “We are not actively looking in any DOE facilities right now,” she told me today. Instead, she said, the department is trying to help HLA find private space. “We want to see how the private facilities that they are looking at pan out and then we’ll take next steps as potentially necessary,” Meyer said.

Gerstein told me that representatives from the school and the education department are meeting tomorrow to tackle the space question.

Should HLA try to move into another public school, it is likely to encounter the same opposition that drove it to withdraw from IS 278, said Christopher Spinelli, the head of the parent council in District 22, where the school is set to open.

“To place it in another public space they would have to have another public hearing, and I can’t imagine it would go any differently,” Spinelli said. He said schools in his district, particularly in the neighborhoods where HLA focused its space search, don’t see a need for a charter school in their buildings. He also said neither HLA nor the city had informed the parent council, which is supposed to have some authority over the use of school space, that the school had withdrawn its play for space inside IS 278.

Charter schools and at least one city school have in the post taken “planning years” after being approved to have time to find a site, Meyer said. She said she couldn’t think of any school that has delayed its opening after already admitting students. HLA admitted 150 children for its first year, from about 280 applicants, according to Gerstein.

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