City nixes space-sharing plans for three Success charters and three new district schools

Last updated: 6:40 p.m.

The de Blasio administration is reversing space-sharing plans for nine schools set to open next year, entirely nixing three Success Academy charter schools and three district schools, the city announced this afternoon.

The other three schools, two middle schools and a high school, will be able to open in different spaces, pending approval from the city’s Panel for Educational Policy. The nine schools were among 49 whose space-sharing plans were approved in the waning months of the Bloomberg administration.

But the numbers show that, despite de Blasio’s anti-charter school rhetoric, the city ultimately left alone the majority of the new school plans that the administration inherited in January—including seven Success Academy schools set to open next fall. In all, 24 charter schools will be allowed to open in city-owned space next year, including more than a dozen co-location plans that received a free pass because they had been approved last June and earlier.

The announcement doesn’t address the status of four new schools approved to open in 2015. A fourth charter school, American Dream Charter School, will be allowed to open with fewer classes than it planned.

“The previous administration handed over these proposals – and we have had to review all of them under inflexible deadlines,” Fariña said in a statement. “While the circumstances for each proposal are unique, we identified clear criteria and we followed it. But more importantly, as enrollment deadlines approach, we considered the thousands of families that could be affected.  We were deliberate in our decisions and, under the circumstances we inherited, believe this is the best approach.”

Today marks the culmination of de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s promised review of the recently passed plans. A spokesman for the department said the decisions were based on four criteria, including the their impact on programs serving students with disabilities, whether they would place elementary school students in high school buildings, and the messiness of the plan’s logistics. A fourth factor was the size of the school, with the city indicating it did not want to increase the number of schools with fewer than 250 students.

In a statement, de Blasio cast the decisions as a rational response to his administration’s priorities.

“We set out consistent, objective criteria to protect school communities from unworkable outcomes,” he said. “And today, we are taking the best possible path forward, rejecting those proposals that do not meet our values, and working with school communities on those proposals that can be implemented responsibly.”

The fact that all three charter schools whose plans were reversed are Success Academies did not come as a surprise. Success CEO Eva Moskowitz told board members this week that she expected some of her schools to be affected and she said she planned to sue the city over the decision. Moskowitz will host a press conference in Harlem later this afternoon where she will comment on the decision. 

She also is also taking part in a large rally next week in Albany to ask state lawmakers for extra funding and legislative action to allow charter schools to access pre-kindergarten funding.

New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman strongly criticized the decision in a statement.

“Mayor de Blasio’s recommendation to halt three public charter school co-locations and reduce the enrollment of a fourth is a disappointment for the students and their parents who have been looking forward to attending the school of their choice this fall,” Merriman said. “Hundreds of families have applied for schools that are part of a charter school network with unmatched academic results that now will likely not open.”

But de Blasio allies, including United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, praised the move despite its limited scope.

“I’m glad the DOE has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending co-locations,” said Mulgrew, who sued the city over co-location plans last year. 

Meanwhile, a few principals were ecstatic. At Long Island City High School, one of the city’s remaining large high schools, the city had planned to reduce enrollment and add a new district high school to the building next year.

When principal Vivian Selenikas got a phone call this morning that the decision had been reversed, she was thrilled.

“Today is a wonderful day,” she said. “As I told my staff, our mascot is a bulldog. And sometimes being bulldogs with a bone makes all the difference when something isn’t right.”

The principals at East Harlem Scholars Academies and Central Park East High School were also pleased that plans for a grade expansion and co-location of a district school in their building was withdrawn today.

“Although we wholeheartedly support the desire to expand middle school options across the city, we agree with the Chancellor that this particular plan was unworkable,” principals Cheyenne Batista São Roque and Bennett Lieberman said in a statement.

Principals on the other side of the decisions were significantly less enthusiastic. Those included Melissa Melkonian, principal of American Dream Charter School, whose school will be allowed to open but with fewer students.

“We are disappointed in today’s  decision by the de Blasio administration, which means that many families now see their child’s chances of attending American Dream Charter School drop,” she said in a statement.