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Students in a Success Academy classroom in 2017.

Students in a Success Academy classroom in 2017.

Monica Disare/Chalkbeat

Success Academy ratchets up pressure on city to give it space

In a rally outside City Hall and in a private email to reporters, Success Academy’s CEO Eva Moskowitz is ramping up pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to provide space for several new middle schools she plans to open next year.

The city missed a September deadline set by the charter-school network to approve a request for shared space inside public-school buildings for up to seven new middle schools. Now, the earliest the city can approve those requests is at a public meeting in November, according to Moskowitz, who spoke at last week’s rally.

In the meantime, families of more than 730 children preparing to start middle school next fall are stuck in limbo without assurance that they will have school buildings or the opportunity to attend open houses and tour the schools in advance, Success Academy officials argue.

“Because the city delays in providing space, families don’t know what their options are, whether their middle school will be down the block or across the borough,” Moskowitz said in an email to reporters Thursday morning. “While district parents across NYC are actively contemplating their school choice for next year, the mayor is keeping Success parents on hold.”

City officials said they are working to fulfill the requests, but suggested they are still gathering public input.

“Any time we are siting a school in a building, whether district or charter, we believe there must be a lot of public engagement,” said education department spokesman Michael Aciman. “We follow the State Law and work closely with charter organizations to address space requests in a timely manner.”

The bitter battle over public space for charter schools has been raging for years: The city argues that finding suitable shared space for charters is tricky, while Success Academy argues that plenty of space is available and the de Blasio administration is dragging its feet. Parents and educators in district schools often resist losing building space to charter schools.

This latest fight comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed earlier this summer to make it easier for charter schools to receive public funding to pay for private space — part of a deal with state lawmakers in exchange for an extension of de Blasio’s control of the city’s schools. State law requires the city to help charter schools pay rent for private facilities if it doesn’t given them room inside public buildings.

After the deal in June, charter-school advocates called on the mayor to fulfill charters’ space requests by September. Now that the deadline has passed, Success and charter advocates appear to be resuming their campaign to wrestle public space from the city.

Success Academy and the de Blasio administration might be headed for a more dramatic clash if the city misses the October 13 deadline to put the building requests on the agenda for the November meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, which must approve them.