A large crowd attended the Community Board 14 meeting on Wednesday night, many of them to speak in opposition to co-locating a new charter school at the Beach Channel Educational Campus.
Jennie Soler-McIntosh, the vice president for community engagement for New Visions, made a presentation to CB 14 on Wednesday night, but many members of the board and speakers were in opposition to the new school.
Kahlil Anderson, a graduate for the Charter View school at the BCEC was in opposition to the new school, pointing out that amenities such as the gym, cafeteria and library were already over-utilized by the six schools already at the campus.
The Department of Education says that there is plenty of room inside of the Beach Channel Educational Campus for a seventh school, arguing that the total enrollment for all six schools presently in the building is 1625 students and that, before it was discredited and closed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it held 2,791 students, a difference of more than 1,000 students. The city’s own website says that the school is only utilizing 58 percent of its capacity. City education officials say that District 27 and Rockaway need more high school seats. According to education officials, the city will need several thousands of new high school seats over the next years.
The seventh school, Humanities IV, would open its doors to ninth grade students this coming September, was voted into co-location status on Wednesday night by the city’s educational council. It will begin in September with 125 ninth grade students, with the plan off adding a like-sized ninth grade class every year as the older students move towards graduation – a total of 500 students over four years.
Many locals, however, dispute that the raw numbers provided by the education department tell the whole story and they want the co-location stopped. Those opposed to the plan range from Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato to recent graduates to parent association officials to students attending the other six schools in the building – especially those at the highly-successful Channel View School for Research, a grade 6-12 school.
Kahlil Anderson, a recent graduate of Channel View and a Community Board 14 member, was one of those who voiced his opposition to the co-location plan at Wednesday night’s meeting.
“The school is so overcrowded now that some kids eat lunch at 10 a.m. What will it be like when 400 or 500 more kids are placed in the building,” he asked. The cafeteria is already over utilized as are the gym and the library. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered, particularly the question of how seven schools are going to share scarce amenities.”
Board Chair Delores Orr said that the board had asked the education council to hold off from its vote until the local community board could weigh in, but the plea was apparently ignored by the citywide board.
“Why not simply expand Channel View,” Orr asked. “Why throw another wrench in to a difficult situation with six separate entities and six managers.”
Jennie Soler-McIntosh, the vice president for community engagement for New Visions Public School was present at the meeting and made a presentation detailing the glories of the New Visions program.
She also admitted that there are “challenges” for co-location buildings with several schools.
“Co-location works if all the principals come together in a collaborative way,” she said. “It’s all a leadership issue. We spoke with all the other principals [in the campus] about the understanding that it takes to work with others. It’s all about collaboration and all of the principals meet regularly to work out the details of how all the amenities in the building will be shared.”
Soler-McIntosh said that there were already 150 applicants for the first 125 slots and that a lottery would be held to see who gets a seat.
At first, she said that most of the applicants were from schools already functioning at the Beach Channel Campus, but walked that statement back when Orr challenged her. She added that approximately 55 students from Rockaway presently attend a sister charter school in South Jamaica, proving the need for more high school seats on the peninsula.
“You say you bring new seats, but then what sense does it make to take most of your students out of already-existing seats in the same building,” she asked.
After a few moments, the charter representative walked back her statement, saying that she “misspoke” and that most of the applicants come from District 27, which includes a large portion of the mainland, and not specifically from Rockaway.
Those opposed to the program pointed out that there are already three high school programs at the Beach Channel campus and another across the street at Scholars’ Academy. There are another three more high school programs at the Far Rockaway Educational Campus on Bay 25 Street in Bayswater.
When Soler-McIntosh was asked how her program would be different than any of the other high school programs already on the peninsula and on the mainland, she was at a loss for words, except that her school has a “community service” and a “hands-on” components. She pointed out that her other schools have a 91 percent graduation rate. The graduation rate at Channel View is 95 percent and at Scholars’, 99 percent.