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Some see new charter schools as a threat

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Parents fear Coney Island schools will suffer when a charter school opens this fall.

Their concerns center on Coney Island Preparatory Public Charter School, which was given the green light by the city Department of Education (DOE) and state Board of Regents, and the news that the school will eventually offer grades five to nine.

They fear the school will pull students from nearby elementary and middle schools, some of which are already suffering from low enrollment.

“That affects every elementary and middle and high school population in District 21. That is a problem,” said Judy Gerowitz, District 21’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative.

Coney Island Prep, for which a location has yet to be determined, will open with 81 students in the fifth grade. Each year, the school will add a new fifth grade class until there is a full population of students in grades five to nine.

John White, chief operating officer of the DOE’s Office of Portfolio Development, said Coney Island Prep will not only seek to register children living in Coney Island. Instead, the school will look for students throughout School District 21, which spans Coney Island and Bensonhurst.

“A charter school has a district-wide purview,” White explained. “Kids will come from across the district.”

Jacob Mnookin, lead founder of Coney Island Prep, said the charter school wants to work with – and not against – existing public schools in Coney Island.

“Our intent is not to hurt the local public schools,” Mnookin said. “We will cast the net far and wide” when looking for students.

Both Mnookin and White say Coney Island Prep will help students succeed. According to DOE documents, students will wear uniforms and abide by the values of PRIDE, an acronym for professionalism, respect, integrity, determination, and excellence.

“It’s going to be an extraordinarily small learning community,” Mnookin said.

“The proficiency levels of many people in Coney Island are not where we want them to be,” White said. “We believe that this particular school will help students achieve.”

Charter schools have been met with controversy because they receive public and private funds but operate with little day-to-day supervision from city and state officials.

They are also 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.

Applications for Coney Island Prep will be available this month. For information about registering, contact the school at 718-208-3102 or e-mail Learn more about the school at

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