Castle Bridge School to Share Building with P.S. 128 in Washington Heights

By Carla Zanoni on November 23, 2011 10:01am 

Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, Castle Bridge School, a new
Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, Castle Bridge School, a new "choice admissions elementary school," will share a building with pre-K-5 P.S. 128.
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Department of Education

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Department of Education (DOE) approved a plan to house a new selective elementary school at the same location as P.S. 128 Audubon in Washington Heights Monday night.

The DOE agreed to allow Castle Bridge School, an application-based elementary school for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, to share space inside of P.S. 128, a Pre-K through fifth grade zoned elementary school located at 560 West 169th Street in Community School District 6.

Castle Bridge School would admit students through a school- based application process, with preference to District 6 residents, according to the DOE. 

The decision was voted on during a Panel on Educational Policy (PEP) hearing held in Queens. 

Although some parents at PS 128 have said they were concerned about their children sharing space with another school, many would-be Castle Bridge students have lauded the DOE's move to bring a progressive non-charter school to Washington Heights.

“Castle Bridge is just what I am looking for for my son and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it comes through,” wrote one parents on an uptown local parenting email list.

Castle Bridge, called a "choice admissions elementary school" by the DOE, was originally slated to share a space with P.S. 115 at 586 W. 177 St. in Washington Heights. Instead, earlier this year the DOE gave the space to KIPP Charter School, one of the largest charter school chains in the country. Parents were angered by the DOE's decision and began an online campaign fighting for space for Castle Bridge.

At a PEP hearing on the matter held last week Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents the district where the school is located, said he supported the introduction of progressive public schools in the district.

Julie Zuckerman, the proposed principal of the Castle Bridge School and current principal at Central Park East I Elementary School in East Harlem, said she believed the two schools could successfully share space, since the proposed student body at Castle Bridge is much smaller in size than many schools that have previously shared a space with other local public schools.

Last summer, City Councilman Robert Jackson said that he supported the Castle Bridge plan, which he said would have great benefits to the Upper Manhattan community, but remains wary of the DOE's practice of placing new schools at existing schools. Jackson is generally opposed to the practice he said has been shown to have a negative impact on children at the existing school. 

Although Jackson does not represent the district, he serves as chair of the education committee.

DOE officials said that P.S. 128 has a student enrollment of 78 percent of its full capacity and argued the cohabitation would not create an overcrowded school.

In the first year, Castle Bridge would enroll approximately 60-70 students in kindergarten and first grade classes while enrollment at P.S. 128 would remain more or less the same, bringing the total building enrollment between 696 and 796 students.

Lissette Urena, a representative at PS 128 argued that although the school is not filled to capacity, classrooms are overfilled with students.

“[District] 6 needs more school options that reflect students’ needs but co-locations are NOT the way to achieve this goal,” wrote Washington Heights parent Tory Frye on the Community Education Council District 6 Facebook page.

The two schools will share the same space for two years, beginning during the fall of 2012, until a new site for Castle Bridge is located.

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