Brooklyn Charter School Expansion Put on Hold Due to Community Backlash
Expansion for a popular Brooklyn, New York, charter school was recently suspended in part by resentful community responses. The school, Community Roots Charter School, currently shares a building with a public elementary school and a separate special education school. Academic success in recent years motivated leaders at Community Roots to expand operations to accommodate middle school students; a plan greatly accepted by students and parents participating at Community Roots. The decision to postpone expansion came as a disappointing shock to families.
After opening in 2006 Community Roots Charter School has proved to be a positive and effective experiment in alternative education. In 2010 the school received almost 700 applications to fill only 50- open seats. Parents watching their children excel in the program dreaded the day they would have to enroll their students in traditional public middle schools. The announcement of adding middle school curriculum was a welcome plan and most parents didn’t bother with looking at other middle schools.
Unfortunately for Community Roots families the community did not express an overwhelming joy for the situation.
The expansion of Community Roots would require more space, which could only come from the shared space with P.S. 67 and P369K, the other two schools in the building. Removing space from those programs would create a noticeable hardship as classrooms sizes are already larger than parents would like.
Frustrated parents of P.S. 67 and P369K students rallied in protest and were reported to have made harassing remarks and gestures at Community Roots attendees. Accusations of racial discrimination have also been brought to the argument by disapproving community members. Student populations at P.S. 67 and P369K are mostly comprised of black and Hispanic children who qualify for free or reduced lunch; a factor representing family income. The students at Community Roots represent a diverse student body with less than half qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Some in opposition have accused New York charter schools of being traditionally segregated.
While leaders at Community Roots deny claims of intentional segregation, the community backlash seems to have been successful in halting expansion. Community Roots co-leaders Allison Keil and Sara Stone have reported the decision to postpone expansion based on the lack of space they feel is necessary for the proposed middle school. While currently on hold, Community Roots has not given up the idea all together and will work with the city’s schools chancellor to create a realistic plan for growth.