Families and teachers from Seth Low Intermediate School decried a city plan to install a controversial charter school chain in the building at the corner of W. 12th Street and Avenue P during a raucous public hearing on Sept. 30.
Not one parent, instructor, student, or community leader spoke in favor of the proposal to have Success Academy take over two of Seth Low’s floors to create a charter school serving grades kindergarten through fourth grade. Speakers argued the plan would lead to congestion inside and outside the facility, unexpected expenses, and the loss of educational opportunities for the middle school students.
Several young pupils claimed that the public school’s building is packed already, even without the addition of 600 new students.
“The hallways are very crowded, the stairways are very crowded,” said 13-year-old Danielle Perkins, an eighth-grader at Seth Low. “Imagine having younger, smaller kids here.”
Parents protested the reduced access expected for Seth Low students to the gymnasium and auditorium, which they claimed would mean fewer programs for kids.
“I want the school to remain the same,” said Susanna Kocllari, who plans to send her third-grade son to the same school her seventh-grade daughter currently attends. “I want to have the same education and the same opportunities for him that I had for her.”
Seth Low’s nurse noted that the city plan did not call for the hiring of new medical personnel, leaving her to tend to dozens more children daily — which she said would lead to delays in care.
“Your child will have to wait, and they will have to wait a very long time,” said Rosemary McCormick.
And acclaimed Courier Life columnist and Seth Low ballroom dance instructor Carmine Santa Maria also pointed to the possibility of unanticipated construction costs from having to accommodate younger children.
“Do you realize how much money you save if you don’t bring the K-through-Four school here and you don’t have to lower the urinals?” the Big Screecher demanded.
Bensonhurst’s Community Board 11 voted unanimously to condemn the charter school plan, on the grounds that — with PS 177 11 blocks down Avenue P — children would flood the streets in the mornings and afternoons. The neighborhood panel said this was disconcerting because city statistics show that 92 percent of motorists in the area speed.
The city’s representatives responded that its estimates show that the Seth Low building can accommodate 1,341 students — far more than the 743 kids it currently serves. The Department of Education also estimated that registration at the school would fall — a prediction Seth Low leaders disputed, given the overcrowding in nearby grade schools. A spokesman for the agency also claimed that the charter schools are far superior to the public schools they are replacing.
“A once-broken system has been transformed with new, high performing schools — and those additional options have delivered extraordinary outcomes for children. Our strategy has worked, and with this new school, that progress will continue,” said spokesman Harry Hartfield.
The Success Academy chain sued to block a state investigation into the financing of one of its schools in July, arguing that it was outside its power. A Success spokeswoman claimed that neighborhood families actually supported the charter school, despite the overwhelming opposition of those who turned up.
“Local parents are demanding more high-quality options to educate their children and Success Academy, which runs some of the city’s highest performing public schools, looks forward to the opportunity to try to meet some of this demand,” said Kerri Lyons.