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A Prospect Heights space fight will be on display tomorrow

The city is hoping that the second time is the charm for its plan to move a charter school into the P.S. 9 building in Brooklyn.

A revised version of a plan outlining how the two schools would share space is one of the items expected to be passed at tomorrow night’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting. (A majority of panel members are appointed by the mayor, and so city proposals always pass easily.) State education officials overturned a first draft of the plan last month.

The state’s move followed an appeal by parents at P.S. 9 parents who claimed that the city’s proposal did not include required information. Parents at the school also challenge the city’s plan because it conflicts with their own hopes for the school, which they would like to expand through the eighth grade.

Parents have even nominated one of their own, a P.S. 9 parent who is currently a dean at a Manhattan middle school, to oversee the expansion, which would require P.S. 9 to take up more space inside the building.

The Department of Education is standing by its plan. “We are pleased with P.S. 9’s progress and understand the desire of the school to expand, but in this case, the need of an entire school district strongly outweighs the need of one school,” said Marc Sternberg, deputy chancellor for portfolio planning.

Faye Rimalovski, a P.S. 9 parent, said parents are prepared to protest the plan at tomorrow’s PEP meeting. “Armed and ready,” she said.

The charter school, Brooklyn East Collegiate middle school, would replace M.S. 571, a middle school that is currently in P.S. 9’s building but is in the process of phasing out due to poor performance. Brooklyn East Collegiate, a member of the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools, opened last year in a Bedford-Stuyvesant school building with 81 fifth-graders.

At a public hearing on the proposed co-location on Friday, supporters of both schools argued about the space-sharing plan. An unlikely centerpiece arose: P.S.9’s new library.

Parents at P.S. 9, located in the increasingly middle-class neighborhood of Prospect Heights, recently spearheaded the renovation of the school’s dilapidated library. Parents with backgrounds in design and architecture drew up the plans, while others negotiated with the city and government-approved vendors to raise $500,000 for the project.

At the hearing Friday, Council member Letitia James, who represents the school’s district, said the Department of Education is claiming a space that her community developed. “The library of P.S. 9 that you are only paying a dollar for, I paid for,” she said. Parents and members of the community education council, an elected parent body, echoed her criticism.

The P.S. 9 supporters’ arguments about the library surprised Kevin Cummings, whose daughter attends Brooklyn East Collegiate. “I’m confused as to why parents are arguing over children’s access to books. We don’t plan to move them out of the library,” he said.

Also on the agenda at tomorrow’s meeting of the PEP, the current version of the school board: a proposal to close Khalil Gibran International Academy’s middle school and seven other proposed co-locations of charter school in district buildings.

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