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P.S. 188’s Former Principal: Girls Prep Broke Agreement

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There's another twist today in the battle over the Girls Prep Middle School. At issue- an agreement Girls Prep negotiated to move into P.S. 188's building on East Houston Street last year. Earlier this week, Girls Prep founder Miriam Raccah told us P.S. 188 always understood (and was supportive of) her school's intentions to add a middle school in the building.

This morning, former P.S. 188 Principal Barbara Slatin, who negotiated the deal, called Raccah's characterization of their conversations "grossly inaccurate."  She said the Department of Education (DOE) approached her two years ago, saying it was necessary to move another school into her building (P.S. 188 was already sharing with P.S. 94, a special needs school). Slatin met with executives of the Girls Prep Charter School, and felt they could be good partners. But it was important to her that there weren't constant turf battles, so the two schools negotiated a space sharing deal that was "equitable and permanent." In other words, Slatin said, Girls Prep agreed not to ask for more space. P.S. 188 gave up 5 classrooms and some other facilities. In a public meeting, Slatin told me, Raccah promised P.S. 188 parents she would not try to take more classrooms.

At the time, Slatin added, P.S. 94 students were adolescents with serious behavioral issues. She felt the presence of Girls Prep would help stabilize the school building. But later, P.S. 94 changed its focus, serving autistic children. Slatin said, when that change was made, the three schools co-existed very well.

Last month, the Department of Education said it was considering three options to accommodate Girls Prep's expansion plan. This week, Raccah sent a letter to the Community Education Council, advocating option #1, which involves moving P.S. 94 to Tribeca. 

Slatin, who emphasized she no longer speaks officially for P.S. 188, said she found the situation disheartening. P.S. 188 is a successful school (regularly earning high marks from the DOE), in spite of the fact that it serves a low-income, at-risk community. She said it would be a "travesty to allow non-District 1 families to fill up the building at the expense of neighborhood schools."

Girls Prep gives first preference to District 1 families, but fewer than half its students live on the Lower East Side.

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