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City will put PAVE Academy extension request to a re-vote

City officials will call a new vote of the citywide school board on a contentious plan to allow a Brooklyn charter school to overstay its initial space-sharing agreement with a district school.

The move is the latest in a long series of procedural twists that has frustrated parents from both schools. The charter school seeks a home until construction on their own school building is complete, while district school parents fear that the charter school’s growth in the city-owned building will squeeze their students.

The board voted in January to allow PAVE Academy charter school to remain in Red Hook’s P.S. 15 building, but a legal challenge from parents at the district school is forcing the issue to a re-vote.

Two P.S. 15 parents filed an appeal last month asking State Education Commissioner David Steiner to halt the charter school’s expansion, alleging that the city did not properly follow state law as it planned to extend PAVE’s stay in the P.S. 15 building.

The charter school had originally planned to leave the district school building at the end of this school year, but requested more time so that the school could grow as it waits for construction on a new school building to finish.

In the city’s response to the parents’ appeal, Debra Kurshan, head of the city’s Office of Portfolio Planning, explains that the Panel for Educational Policy will vote again because of a discrepancy between the plan the DOE submitted to the panel and the resolution the panel voted to approve. The proposal the DOE submitted to the PEP would allow PAVE to stay through the 2012-13 school year.

But the language of the proposal approved by the PEP in its all-night January meeting did not specify an end date for PAVE’s stay, instead saying that the charter school would stay until its new building is finished. The disappearance of an explicit end date in the resolution had prompted fears among critics of the space-sharing arrangement that PAVE would continue to grow in the district school building indefinitely into the future.

A lawyer for Advocates for Children, the advocacy group representing the P.S. 15 parents in the appeal, welcomed the new vote. But she said the DOE’s response does not address a larger problem, commonly raised by critics of the city’s school siting process — that the city’s assessment of how the expansion will affect all of the students in the building is not sufficiently detailed.

“Although we are happy that the DOE has scheduled a new vote, and that they have backed away from making the co-location open-ended, we remain concerned that the Education Impact Statement does not reflect the actual impact on the students at PS15 and hope that the State Commissioner will refuse to uphold the vote unless more complete information is made available to the public for comment,” said Rebecca Shore, Advocates for Children’s director of litigation.

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