Today’s news:

Coney charter school gets DOE O.K.

A new charter school is one step closer to opening in Coney Island.

The city Department of Education (DOE) approved the proposal for the Coney Island Preparatory Public Charter School. The school’s application was forwarded to the state Board of Regents, which has the final say in whether or not to open the school. A decision is expected by early next year.

According to DOE documents, the school seeks to open in August 2009 within School District 21, which includes Coney Island and Bensonhurst. The school would ultimately boast nearly 400 students in grades five to 12.

Students at Coney Island Preparatory would wear uniforms and abide by the values of PRIDE, an acronym for professionalism, respect, integrity, determination, and excellence.

Charter schools have been met with much controversy.

Charter schools, which receive public and private funding, have a small school format but are held to different accountability standards than traditional public schools.

As per regulations, when the state approves a new charter school, the school agrees to meet specific student achievement standards. Five years later, if those standards are met, the charter is renewed and the school remains open. If not, the school is closed.

Charter school supporters say the schools offer small learning environments and better prepare students for standardized exams and college. Opponents say they are mini private schools selecting the brightest students and operating under little day-to-day supervision from city and state officials.

Yoketing Eng, president of District 21’s Community Education Council (CEC), questioned the idea of opening a charter school in District 21. He says charter schools are designed for poor-performing school districts and doesn’t think District 21 fits the bill.

“The schools that will be affected by that charter school are 288, 188, 329 and 90. As far as I know, they are not underperforming,” he said. “I would question if there is a use for a charter school that would be placed in that area.”

If approved by the Board of Regents, Coney Island Preparatory could obtain its own space in a private facility or be housed in an existing public school. If it’s the latter option, the DOE would find a local school building that is underutilized and ask the school to relinquish several classrooms to accommodate the charter school.

Similar space-sharing arrangements have been met with criticism from parents and educators who feared that class sizes would increase as a result of having fewer classrooms.

If the DOE eventually plans to house a charter school in an existing public school, a public hearing would be held to allow community members and parents to voice their support or opposition.

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