Last night, parents and other concerned residents crowded into a meeting room at University Neighborhood High School to speak out about a plan to move a second school into a century-old building on the Lower East Side.
We were not able to attend, but City Council member Margaret Chin was there, and was pretty active on Twitter throughout the evening. Yesterday, she sent along a statement reiterating her opposition to the Department of Education’s proposal:
(University Neighborhood High School’s) limited facilities cannot reasonably accommodate an additional student body without severe educational and social repercussions. Currently, the building has neither a gym, an auditorium, nor a cafeteria, and instead uses a school lobby for assemblies, physical education, and meal service. Originally built as an elementary school, the school’s hallways are narrow, the classrooms are not full-sized, and the entire building has only four bathrooms available for students. University Neighborhood High School has excelled despite limited space and resources, and these latest plans to co-locate an additional high school within the building will disrupt years of steady and remarkable progress. It is a disservice to students who will not receive one-one-one instruction and adequate resources, and to teachers who will be stretched too thin to provide the specialized guidance students need.
The DOE intends to create an early college and technical education high school in the building. located at 200 Monroe St. There would be up to 85 students enrolled in 2014, and 510 a few years from now. More than 300 kids currently attend University Neighborhood High School. The DOE believes the building can accommodate 694 kids. Last night’s meeting was a formality, a requirement of state law. The Panel for Educational Policy is almost certain to approve the plan October 15.
UPDATE 12:43 P.M. In late September the DOE wrote to Council member Chin, defending its decision. See below for relevant excerpts:
…Please be aware that if this proposal is approved, the schools’ leadership teams will discuss and implement strategies to efficiently use space within the building to serve all students’ needs. Further, please note that in many of our buildings staggered schedules for student instruction in shared spaces have been implemented. The Building Council may choose to assign each school specific bathrooms on the floors/hallways of their classrooms and to share bathrooms on shared floors. The use of elevators will be coordinated by the schools’ leaders in order to accommodate any students requiring the use of the elevator in future years… We have hundreds of successful co-locations throughout the City and we are confident that both UNHS and the new district CTE/EC high school will be able to work together to make Building M446 an even more successful educational facility for the community… We are eager to bring opportunities like these to the City’s families and to connect students with early college educational options that will give them the opportunity to earn associate’s degrees free of charge… Thank you for writing to the Chancellor and for your continued advocacy on behalf of the City’s public school students.