More on the Girls Prep situation/saga. The New York Times now has confirmation from the Department of Education that the LES charter school is delaying the first day of school, originally scheduled for this coming Monday. As we reported earlier today, Chancellor Joel Klein has decided against using his “emergency powers” to get around a state ruling blocking the DOE’s expansion plan. Excerpts from Jennifer Medina’s story, posted on the Times’ web site a short time ago:
…a spokeswoman for Mr. Klein said Friday that the city was reversing course and would search for another space for the charter school, pushing back the first day of school for the 125 Girls Prep students by as much as a month. The chancellor’s decision to use emergency powers provoked outrage from many parents and elected officials, including State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has been a reliable supporter of Mr. Klein’s…
But the DOE officials are making it clear they still believe their plan to accommodate Girls Prep, P.S. 188 and P.S. 94 in the same building can work:
“After consulting with Girls Prep, P.S. 94 (a special needs school), local elected officials, parents and advocates, we feel it is incumbent upon the department to exhaust all other options before issuing an emergency declaration,” Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the chancellor, said in a statement. “We still believe that P.S. 188 is an appropriate option as they have adequate space available and it would not result in a single special-education student being moved. But if we can identify alternative space for one year — whether private or public — we feel it would be the best outcome for all involved. So it is our hope that we will have this matter resolved for these students as soon as possible.”…
(In a statement released later in the day, Chancellor Klein sounded a bit more defiant: “Given the threats of litigation and continuing uncertainty, we are working with the Board of Girls Prep to find a stable solution for these young women. At the same time, we remain prepared to exercise our emergency powers should that become necessary.”
In her response, Girls Prep’s acting executive director also acknowledged the prospect of legal proceedings led to the reversal:
Officials from the school say they hope to find space within the next several weeks, ideally at another location on the Lower East Side. (Perhaps the recently vacated Catholic middle school is a good fit?) “The threat by Advocates for Children to challenge an emergency declaration has created an unacceptable level of uncertainty for us, so we are being forced to find another option,” said Cristina Garcia-Coleman, the acting executive director of Public Preparatory Network, which oversees the charter school. “We have already identified several potential locations.
Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children executive director, confirmed (in an interview with Gotham Schools) that the organization informed the DOE it eould seek a restraining order to block Klein from exercising emergency powers. Rebecca Shore, the organization’s litigation director, told us a few moments ago the group is pleased the DOE decision has been reversed.
At the same time, she said, there’s a lot that remains unclear. In spite of the DOE’s contention that no students would be displaced due to GP’s expansion, Shore indicated it’s still unknown where 4th graders from P.S. 94 will be going to school this fall. She said the department is not communicating with parents and not making decisions in a transparent manner.
More reaction is coming in tonight. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has released the following statement:
I am pleased with the Department of Education’s announcement that it will withdraw plans for an emergency powers strategy that threatened to harm special needs students. DOE’s decision to exhaust all options and investigate alternate locations is a wise and prudent move. I look forward to working closely with the Department to ensure that this process continues in good faith and with robust community consultation. All entities involved must come together to find a solution that best serves all of the children impacted by our City’s ongoing overcrowding challenges.