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A plan by the city to move a kindergarten- through fourth-grade charter school into an excelling Bath Beach middle school will make it impossible for any of the students to learn, claimed angry parents on Monday night.
Moms and dads of students at Joseph B. Cavallaro Intermediate School packed into its auditorium to protest the so-called “co-location” — a increasingly pervasive policy of the Department of Education to share space within the building by two separate institutions — demanding that the city halt a proposal they say will hurt their kids.
“The Department of Education is yet again trying to ruin another one of our schools,” said Angela Gueren a graduate of the middle school, who currently has a 12-year-old daughter attending it. “Our children will lose out on precious resources.”
Raucous chants of “no co-location,” rang throughout the auditorium at a meeting organized by the local Community Education Council to hear what parents think about the plan to shoehorn the Coney Island Prep Charter School into the building.
Parents protesting the co-location held up black and white signs reading, “Cavallaro is the heart of our community, don’t break out hearts,” Among the concerns raised at the meeting included overcrowding of the building, which, according to the president of the education council, was already at 80 percent of its capacity, and sharing of resources such the divvying up time for the use of computer labs, dance studios, the cafeteria, and the gym.
“What everybody said here about the overcrowding and lack of resources is absolutely true,” said Virginia Cheung, a health and physical education teacher at Cavallaro. “It is clear that this community is very divided over this issue, so why doesn’t the charter school use other available space?”
Current students and teachers claimed the new school would be a burden on the students already there, and would destroy the sense of community the school has continually nurtured.
“Everyone knows each others names at this school, and we already have our own identity and space, and we deserve it,” said sixth-grader Genesis Ford. “The bottom line is we should not have another school bothering us like this. This is torture.”
If the city has its way, the charter school’s kindergarteners and first graders move in next September, an addition of just over 100 students. It will subsequently continue to add a grade each year until it tops out with 275 to 350 kindergarten through fourth grade students in 2017.
Heather Fioricka, president of the local community education council, said the council vehemently opposed the charter school co-location — one of several being pushed across the borough by the outgoing administration of Mayor Bloomberg, an enthusiastic advocate of privately run charter schools funded by taxpayers. Fioricka argued that the neighborhood didn’t need any more elementary schools.
“We don’t need so many K-4 schools,” she said. “It’s not like they are bursting at the seams in any way. It is clear that this is a way for the Bloomberg administration to push its agenda before the new mayor takes over.”
Fioricka said the co-location is just a way for the charter school to avoid paying rent on a new building.
Supporters of the charter school showed up as well, decked out in matching red jerseys, arguing that Coney Island Prep was particularly good for special-needs students.
“I’m so glad I enrolled my son at this school,” said Joe Herrera, whose son Joey entered the charter school’s middle school division with learning disabilities. “Now my son has been declassified and is doing exceedingly well in the 9th grade. I really took a shot with this school and I couldn’t be happier. We are just parents like everyone else who want the best possible education for our children.”
The fate of the Cavallaro co-location plan will be decided at a meeting of the Panel for Education Policy on Oct. 30, where parents will again have a chance to voice their concerns.
Panel for Education Policy meeting at the Prospect Heights International High School [883 Classon Ave. between President and Union streets, (718) 230–6333] Oct. 30, 5:30 pm.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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