School’s in — like it or not!
A city board approved controversial plans to install new schools inside the buildings of two existing Brooklyn public school, in spite of overwhelming public opposition and claims that the city is lying when it says the schools can handle the additional students.
The Panel for Education Policy voted “yea” on the so-called “co-location” of new schools at Gravesend’s John Dewey High School and Bath Beach’s Joseph Cavallaro Middle School on Oct. 30.
The Department of Education’s plans call for a grammar-level branch of Coney Island Prep charter school to open inside Cavallaro’s 24th Avenue location, and for an as-yet-unnamed public high school to open inside of Dewey’s Bay 50th Street space. The department claims that both facilities are underutilized, but school leaders say that the proposals will create overcrowding.
“They base this on information they have totally wrong,” said Heather Fiorica, head of Community Education Council 21, a group of representatives elected by school parent-teacher associations.
The city plan for Dewey claims the school has just 1,630 students, and projects that enrollment will remain roughly the same. But Fiorica argues the Dewey in reality has more than 1,900 students. Fiorica also pointed out that the city’s own projections show that adding a charter school to Joseph Cavallaro could send the school over capacity by 2017. Fiorica was among those who testified against the plan to the panel, to no avail.
“No matter what we said, they still voted yes,” said Fiorica.
Dozens of students, parents, and teachers blasted the co-location plans at public hearings, claiming that the proposals would lead to a loss of funding and access to common facilities like gyms and cafeterias for the existing schools.
“The Department of Education is yet again trying to ruin another one of our schools,” Angela Gueren, a Cavallaro graduate and parent, testified on Oct. 23. “Our children will lose out on precious resources.”
A city spokesman argued that the mayor’s policies have brought about an enormous turnaround in public education, pointing to increased graduation rates and fewer drop-outs.
“Our strategy has worked,” said spokesman Harry Hartfield.
The city gave Cavallaro an “A” rating last year. Dewey received a “B” in 2012, up from a “C” in the two years prior.
The Panel for Education Policy’s decision on both schools was eight members in favor and four opposed.
The panel — which will meet twice more this year — voted to install Success Charter Academies in Mill Basin’s Roy H. Mann and Bensonhurst’s Seth Low schools over community opposition earlier in October.