If the Department of Education (DOE) decides to put a transfer high school into a new school building now being completed at 965 East 107th Street, they can expect a fight.
City Councilmember Charles Barron said he was looking at the legal implications of the DOE’s proposal, which would involve putting a middle school that the community wants −− the Science and Medicine Middle School −− and a transfer school that the community doesn’t want −− the East Brooklyn Community High School −− together at the site.
“I’m livid with them,” said Barron, who opposes the concept for that particular location, which had previously been proposed as a school for children in kindergarten through grade eight.
Barron pointed out that the City Council had voted for a K−to−8 school, not a plan incorporating a middle school with a transfer high school, which would accept troubled students who had left school and now want to return, as well as students who are still in school but who have fallen far behind.
“When we passed that plan, that was the plan we expected to be in that school,” Barron stressed. “They can’t come back a year later and say they want to put a transfer high school there. If we have to go to court, if we have to demonstrate, that school is supposed to be a middle and⁄or elementary school.”
Indeed, Barron pointed out, the particular middle school that was chosen for the location, was selected as a way of keeping students in the district. “A lot of zoned students have been going to schools out of the area because they wanted a quality school,” Barron explained. “This was supposed to attract them back.”
Barron said that, as far as the transfer high school was concerned, “If the students who need such a school are in the district,” then it would be appropriate to open such a school somewhere in the area, “But not at this school.”
Residents are not happy with the idea, either. Many had opposed the idea of a school being located at the site, in the first place, because of the impacts of construction, and because of concerns over traffic from buses bringing students in.
The new plan has further ruffled their feathers. At the April meeting of Community Board 18, one man living near the school made the perspective crystal clear. Holding his own child in his arms, Hashim Muhammed remarked, “They say it’s a community high school. It’s not my community high school.”
However, Melody Meyer, a DOE spokesperson, said that the agency’s interest in including a transfer high school at the site reflected the fact that there was a need for such a school while, conversely, the need for elementary school seats in the area had declined.
“Many of the nearby elementary schools are under−enrolled,” Meyer explained. “There is, demographically speaking, a high percentage of high school students in the area who are behind at least two grades. The high school proposed to open in the building is specially designed to help these students get a high school diploma. That said, this is an ongoing conversation with the community. We are hearing feedback from the community, and we are continuing the conversation, so I wouldn’t describe this as a done deal.”
For his part, Barron said that he had recently been told by DOE that they, “Understand our concern. They said, right now, the only plans will be for the middle school and they want to talk about the transfer school, but they also said they need to keep it open, so I want the community to prepare for a fight. It doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it. Right now means what?”
The capacity of the new school −− which cost $34.5 million to build −− is about 500 students. According to Meyer, approximately 250 students would be enrolled in the middle school, with another 200 enrolled at the high school.
©2009 Community News Group
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