A Quiet First Day for an Upper West Side Charter School

Pictures were taken, hugs and kisses were exchanged, and only a few tears were shed Wednesday morning outside the Brandeis Educational Complex on West 84th Street, where kindergarteners lined up for the first day of classes.

Other than the fact that classes were beginning more than two weeks before most other city students will start school, the new Upper West Success Academy seemed to be having a pretty typical first day.

But the time leading up to the opening of the charter school, part of the Success Network chain run by Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member, was anything but typical. Upper West Success’s existence was in limbo this summer when opponents of the school — angry about the decision to place the elementary school in Brandeis, a building that already houses four high schools — filed a lawsuit to stop the school from opening.

This month, a judge ruled in favor of the Success charter network, and granted the school permission to admit the 184 students already awarded seats in its kindergarten and first-grade classes.

Thursday morning, with the school opening to its kindergarten students, parents were happy to put the legal turmoil behind them.

“Every parent deserves to feel as excited as we do dropping off our daughter on her first day of kindergarten,” said J.C. Renner, whose daughter Grace, 5, was among the first group of students.

Mr. Renner’s daughter was zoned for Public School 191 on the Upper West Side, a school that received a letter grade of C on last year’s Department of Education progress report.

“Everyone contributes the same tax wise, so why should my child have to go to a bad school,” said his wife, Susan Renner.

Members of the groups opposed to the school said they remained resentful of the decision to place Upper West Success in Brandeis. They said it was part of a pattern of favoritism by the Department of Education for charter schools by shoe-horning them into already-crowded public schools.

“This is not something we are comfortable with,” said Noah E. Gotbaum, chairman of the charter schools and overcrowding committee for District 3’s Community Education Council. “We still feel that it is really disrespectful to the parents in our community and the elected officials who are uniformly against this.”

Mr. Gotbaum said the Community Education Council would continue to challenge the school, particularly its recruiting and enrollment practices. But Ms. Moskowitz said she expected the furor to subside.

“The temperature only tends to be hot until you get in the building,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “Educators care about kids. It’s kind of outside forces that drum up the drama.”

Carrie Roby, the principal of the Upper West Success Academy, said she was greeted with open arms by the principals of the other schools in the Brandeis complex: Global Learning Collaborative; Innovation Diploma Plus; Frank McCourt High School; and Urban Assembly School for Green Careers.

“The people in this building are wonderful,” Ms. Roby said. “And the high school teachers are actually excited to see smaller kids and what a kindergarten classroom is like.”

The school has its own entrance on West 84th Street, off Columbus Avenue. It is consolidated in two hallways on the second floor, and has its own cafeteria on the lower floor that cost the Department of Education about half a million dollars – a point of contention for the opponents.

The kindergarteners began their first day with breakfast in that cafeteria, which was painted orange and blue — Success Charter’s colors. They were instructed on how to walk through the halls quietly and how to throw away their garbage.

The students, who in the parlance of the Success Network were referred to as scholars, were then taken to their classrooms. Each room is named after the university the teacher attended — a now-common tool used to inspire students to go to college. The children spent their first day learning the rules and expected behavior.

On Monday, the first grade students will join them.

“Now it’s like the fun begins, it’s what we live for,” Ms. Moskowitz said. “There are struggles and successes, but this is what we’ve been waiting for. We’re in heaven now.”

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