For Newark’s District Schools and Charters, Peaceful Coexistence?

Newark public schools reach out to acommunity concerned about charters and traditional schools sharing campuses

Amid the ongoing debate in Newark over district schools and charter schools sharing space next year, four of the schools being eyed for the “shared campus” plan are reaching out into the community to help introduce the new partnerships.

None of the agreements are final at this point, Newark officials said, but principals from Burnet, Camden Middle, 13th Avenue and Dayton Street are hosting meetings tonight for parents and others to learn about the proposals.

“The pressing need for schools to share space has not changed,” said Valerie Merritt, Newark Public Schools’ communications director, in a statement. “Ongoing planning and engagement continue, and evolving plans are moving forward.”

The charters schools involved in the so-called co-location proposal are not specifically named. The meetings were announced on the Newark Public Schools (NPS) website.

The co-location plans stirred rancorous debate in the community this winter when first disclosed in a planning document under consideration by the district and the Christie administration, which oversees the state-operated school system, New Jersey’s largest.

The debate erupted while the Christie administration was searching for a new district superintendent, a search that ended with the hiring of New York City school administrator Cami Anderson last month. She officially starts on Monday, with this and several other hot topics on her immediate agenda.

Under the draft plan, 11 charter schools were being considered for sharing campuses with district schools, including three of the four holding meetings tonight. Dayton Street was not included in the initial plan, and Merritt in her statement said the plans have been scaled back and continue to change.

“Consultation with principals and community representatives has provided valuable insights, and the space needs have changed as some charters and new schools have decided to delay opening,” the statement said.

“These evolving circumstances are under consideration, and NPS representatives will continue to seek input as we near a final version of the plan which represents the best opportunities for all Newark’s students,” she said.