LONGWOOD — Supporters of two Bronx high schools argued at a hearing Monday against the Department of Education's plan to move a new charter school into their building this fall.
Teachers, parents and students — armed with slideshows, chants and tearful pleas — from Schomburg Satellite Academy High School and Bronx Regional High School decried the lack of community input in the city’s plan. They insisted that moving the ROADS Charter School II into their building would cause overcrowding and undercut the flourishing communities they had worked hard to seed.
"Our education is not your playground — so stay out!” Schomburg student Aiesha Vegas said.
"If you want space for a charter school," said Vegas, 17, "then build one."
Advocates for ROADS II said that the program would offer more options for students in the area who desperately need them, and they believe the three schools could thrive in same building.
"I’m doing this so that we can create options for all our kids in all our communities," incoming ROADS II principal, Seth Litt, told the crowd.
Like the two existing schools in the building, ROADS II would also admit older students who are behind in credits, but they plan to give preference to teens who have faced serious setbacks, such as homelessness or run-ins with the law. Several representatives from groups that work with at-risk youth, such as the Children’s Aid Society and Good Shepherd Services, defended the plan to create a new school for disconnected teens.
Myrna Rodriguez, superintendent of the local high school district, read from the DOE’s co-location proposal, which said the building is filled with unused space and that adding another school would not harm the existing programs.
"If this proposal is approved, the building will be more efficiently utilized, while at the same time providing a new educational option for students in the community," Rodriguez read.
Longtime Schomburg teachers Iris Clarke and Carol Kennedy clicked through a detailed PowerPoint slideshow, with graphs illustrating the class space their school could lose with the so-called co-location proposal. They noted that Schomburg and Bronx Regional, which both enroll older students who have fallen behind in school, have shared the building at 1010 Reverend James Polite Ave. for decades.
"After 40 years of trial and error, we’ve learned one thing," Kennedy said. "One school, one floor."
Bronx Regional currently occupies the fourth floor, and Schomburg fills the fifth floor of the building, which also houses a full-time GED program, as well as childcare, medical and student-referral centers. These schools argued that rather than introduce a new school and disrupt the building's balance, they'd like the DOE to expand the existing schools.
Morgan Asencio said that last month she transferred to Schomburg from a traditional high school where she felt unsafe and ignored, which led her to regularly skip school and earn poor grades.
In her five weeks at Schomburg, she already benefited from a close-knit environment and one-on-one attention from staff — and she has yet to miss a day of learning, she said.
"I enjoy waking up every morning to come to school," said Asencio, 17.
The Panel for Educational Policy, an oversight group that traditionally approves the DOE’s proposals, will vote on the plan at 6 p.m. on March 21 at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan.