Sunday, September 27th 2009, 4:00 AM
A simmering turf battle between a charter and a traditional public school sharing a Red Hook building is boiling over, with public school parents charging their kids are treated like second-class citizens.
Parents at Public School 15 say they're being squeezed out by PAVE Academy, which has asked to extend its stay in the Sullivan St. building despite promising to be out at the end of this year.
Deepening the rift are differences in the schools' styles and the challenges of operating apart, but under one roof.
PS 15 parents and teachers said their kids waste time traveling all the way around the school, forced to avoid hallways and a stairwell allocated to PAVE. Separate playground and mealtimes mean a constant scheduling shuffle.
Some parents say charter students are discouraged from even greeting PS 15 students and staff, creating an unfriendly atmosphere.
"They keep them away from these kids and act like they're diseased or something," said Maritza Delgado, the mother of a PS 15 third-grader. "It's like they're better than the kids who are already there."
PAVE founder Spencer Robertson denied that PAVE students are told not to speak to their PS 15 peers and said that both schools agreed on the division of space and schedules.
"We are separate schools that share the same building, and we run two entirely different programs," he said.
But the culture clash highlights the challenges of plunking a charter into established neighborhood schools - a growing practice that is sparking skirmishes in schools across the city.
Many PS 15 parents were angry that the school's band was forced to move its practice out of a specially built music room because it's sandwiched between two PAVE classrooms.
PAVE's freshly painted classrooms, shiny new tables and chairs and new electronic whiteboards do little to ease resentments.
"At PS 15, nothing is state-of-the-art," said PS 15's PTA Co-President Annette Mendez.
PAVE parents said the style of the charter - where kids wear uniforms, march silently in the halls, and chant slogans - is misunderstood and that their kids are the ones having to compromise, given limited meal and gym times.
"It's not our choice that we're using their space," said Mercedes Jackson, 26, a PAVE parent and Red Hook resident. "It's just where we need to be."
Robertson said he'd signed a contract for a permanent site in Red Hook and was "optimistic" that he'd be able to move in by the 2012-2013 school year.
An additional class next year at PAVE, which now has about 130 students, would make the school 74% full with both schools, DOE estimates show.
After losing a computer lab, a science lab and space for enrichment, tutoring and special education programs, PS 15 parents argue they can't afford to give up more.
"Whatever the charter asks for, we're forced to give," said Sandra Serrano, the mother of a PS 15 fourth-grader. "I'm not opposed to [the charter], I'm just opposed to it in the school."