Parents, Students and Community Not Sure They Have Real Voice in School Co-Location Process

Jason Lewis/Village Voice
From the school's rally against co-location in October.
Students, parents and the surrounding community have made it clear that they don't want the New York City Department of Education to co-locate a new school alongside Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts in Brooklyn.

But, they're unclear whether they possess the power to stop it from happening.

The City's Panel on Educational Policy is set to rule on proposed co-locations around the city later today. Those looking to prevent co-location at their community school aren't sure whether they've had much say in the matter.

"I honestly I feel like the decision might already be made. I've attended as many meetings as I could," Anthonine Fiote, a parent of two middle school students at Susan McKinney, tells the Voice. "This school is really filled with talented kids who want to take [their craft] to the next level. If you take that away from them, I just feel like that's wrong."

Susan McKinney and the District 75 special-needs inclusion program, P.S. 395K, are situated inside DOE building K265 in Fort Greene. The building is one of six across the city up for co-location with a new chapter of the Success Academy Charter School at today's vote.

Despite earning a B grade on the City's annual progress report-card, the DOE identified the building as a site for co-location -- as it estimates that the building is only being utilized at about 45 percent of its full capacity.

"There is rabid demand for these schools," Stephan Friedman, a spokesman for Success Academy, tells the Voice. "If you have a school that's 55 percent empty, and [Success Academy has] 218 applications for 200 seats four months early, should those parents be told no?"

If approved, Success Academy Charter School Brooklyn 5 will open up next September with an inaugural class of 200 kindergarteners and first-graders -- with roughly 434-556 elementary school students by the time the academy reaches full capacity at the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

Parents of students who attend the 6th-12th grade arts school, which is projected to serve about 470 students next year, have expressed concerns that the artistic development of their kids would be stunted by the new school -- citing Success Academy's impending utilization of the school's main arts spaces on the building's third floor.

"The DOE understands that McKinney students and parents and the community in general are enthusiastic about the arts programming offered at the school," the DOE said in its legally mandated analysis of public comments released yesterday -- the day before the vote. "The DOE does not believe the proposal will diminish the arts programming or the availability of arts programming at the school by proposing to co-locate."

See Also: -Debate Over Won't Back Down Shines Light on City's Brewing Education Battle -City Council Presses Dept. of Education Officials on Controversial Co-Location Policy -Parents of Special Needs Children Fed Up With DOE's Flawed School Bus Service - Eva Moskowitz Scores Successes at Raucous School Meeting Last Night -Class Struggles at a Bronx Charter School

According to its analysis of public comments, the DOE has received 151 letters from Susan McKinney stakeholders who've spoken out against co-location. The analysis attempts to assuage and correct the concerns raised and statements made by stakeholders who attended last week's hearing, past rallies and who wrote letters to the DOE.

The DOE didn't allow stakeholders much time to respond or further investigate those assurances and corrections. But, state law only requires that an analysis of public comments be submitted 24 hours in advance of the vote -- and that's precisely when the DOE put it up.

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