Community Braces For Decision On Charter School Co-Location At Seth Low Intermediate School

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Seth Low Intermediate School (99 Avenue P) community is bracing itself for tonight’s vote by administrators, determining whether the school will soon co-house a charter school despite vocal opposition from parents and public school officials.

The State University of New York’s Panel of Education Policy will vote on the fate of the schools at 6 p.m. at Prospect Heights High School at 833 Classon Avenue. The panel recently heard objections from the school community, largely focused on concerns of overcrowding, inter-grade mingling and seeing public resources used for a privately-operated school.

The Department of Education is pursuing the co-location, claiming that the building’s extra space will best be used by Success Academy, an independently operated charter school. But supporters at Seth Low say that the city is pushing the plan at the cost of the community’s efforts to kick-start arts, extracurricular and magnet programs at the school – all of which they say will be threatened by the co-location.

“Seth Low is a school for the community,” said Angela Hargrove, a 6th grade English teacher. “We want to grow. We want to have the space to accommodate all the students who want to come to Seth Low.”

At a PTA meeting, parents and students asked whether the co-location would cause cutbacks to the school’s teaching staff, magnet programs and after-school activities.

“We don’t really know what the impact would be,” said Denise McLain, Parent Coordinator at Seth Low.

I.S. 96 currently serves about 750 students using 55 percent of the building’s capacity. Success Academy would occupy one of the building’s four floors, filling it to capacity within five years, according to an Education Impact Statement by the Department of Education.

Teacher Hargrove and other faculty members argue that the additional space at Seth Low should be used for expanded and improved magnet programs in art, music, math and science.

But Success Academy would address other needs in the community by increasing options for elementary students.

“Success Academy looks forward to the opportunity to meet some of the overwhelming demand from local families for high quality public schools,” said Success Academy spokesperson, Kerri Lyon, referring to the large volume of student applicants in neighboring District 22.

Some school officials are open to having a charter school in the building, but are troubled because faculty and parents weren’t involved in the planning process.

“The administration maneuvered their way in like a snake,” said McLain, who worries this may set a precedent on how future decisions at the schools would be handled.

Parents and staff members learned about the co-location when they returned to school in September, although the DOE announced the proposal on Aug. 30.

Local officials have also joined Seth Low in their fight against the co-location.

Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia declared the Board’s opposition in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, because of quality of life issues.

“The board is very concerned about potential traffic, transportation, pedestrian and parking impacts in the surrounding areas,” said Elias-Pavia.

Community Education Council (CEC) for District 21, where Seth Low is located, also adopted a resolution against the proposal, along with neighboring CEC District 20.

— Ashley Rodriguez

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