Despite continued opposition from the local community, the city’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP) last week green-lighted its plan to co-locate a charter school in the PS/IS 308 building.
Under the plan, the Teaching Firms of America Charter School will take over some of the school’s classrooms and share common space such as the library and cafeteria at different times in what the PEP and Department of Education considers a fair deal with splitting much-needed schoolroom space.
But many, including the NAACP and teachers union, who have taken the DOE to court over the sharing of schoolroom space and the city’s decision to close 22 schools, are contending that the city’s plans are creating a separate but equal situation in the public school system.
And local people such as PS/IS 308 President Patricia Etheah says that the fight is not over.
“We have gotten 60 parents and teachers that signed a petition to come, because we want to fight,” said Etheah at a recent meeting on the issue at a public school in Prospect Heights.
Etheah added that even the city’s School Chancellor Dennis Walcott admitted the school was small on a recent visit, but that all the space wasn’t utilized.
Shawndae Owens, whose daughter is currently attending PS/IS 308 and whose son will attend there next year as a first-grader, expressed dismay about the charter school coming in the fall. Owens said that the school would be taking up more space for students already attending. Owens added that she sees the good in charter schools, but she feels that they need their own building.
Ms. Jackson, a fifth-grade teacher at PS/IS 308, said even some of her students are questioning the idea of an incoming charter school next year.
“Students were very upset that this was happening to them. They feel that the charter school students would think they are superior over the other (308) students. These conditions are unfair and unjust,” said Jackson.
PS/IS 308 currently has about 600 students; there are currently four lunch periods.
In related news, the City Council last week amended the charter to require that the DOE track and provide data on the students of schools being closed by the department.
“I have sharply disagreed with the Department of Education’s belief that phasing out schools is an effective educational policy,” said City Council member Al Vann, a former public schoolteacher and administrator and a founder of the African-American Teachers Association, which organized black teachers and led the fight for community control of public schools in the Sixties.
“My intuition as an educator led me to believe that students would suffer significant negative consequences as a result of these phase-outs. The passage of this legislation will finally provide the Council and stakeholders with important data on how the phasing out of schools truly affects our public school students,” he added.