DOE Proposes 600-Student K-4 Success Charter in Troubled Murry Bergtraum HS

By Irene Plagianos on September 3, 2013 3:18pm 

 Murry Bergtraum may soon be home to new Success Academy charter elementary school.
Murry Bergtraum may soon be home to new Success Academy charter elementary school.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN — Hundreds of young elementary students could soon be sharing space with a Downtown high school plagued by brawls and academic struggles.

The Department of Education wants to open a Success Academy charter school for kindergarten-through-fourth-grade students inside Murry Bergtraum High School, according to just-released city documents. Murry Bergtraum, which has about 1,500 students, received a D on its most DOE recent report card and saw fights, an assault on school safety offers and an attempted arson last school year.

According to the DOE's proposal, the charter would open in September 2014 with 150 to 210 students in kindergarten and first grade, then add a grade each year until it's at capacity, with 450 to 600 young students.

The proposal for the controversial charter has already stirred up vocal opposition from local parents and community leaders, including City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who’ve said they don’t think a massive high school, and especially one where cops have had to break up fights as recently as April, is the right spot for young kids.

Tricia Joyce, chairwoman of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee, said the committee is “most definitely against the move.”

Though Joyce and many other parents are fighting to alleviate the overcrowding of Downtown’s popular elementary schools and have begged the DOE to build another elementary school in the area, Joyce said Murry Bergtraum is not an “appropriate location for an elementary school of any kind in our view.”

DOE spokesman Devon Puglia, however, said the city stands behind the charter school plan.

“Parents clamor for more great schools for their kids — and we’re delivering them,” Puglia said. “As one of the highest performing networks in the city, we’re confident a new school will serve this community well.”

Kerri Lyon, a spokeswoman for Success Academy, said Success, too, is optimistic about the proposed school.

"Success Academy is hopeful we can meet some of the overwhelming demand from local families for more high quality public schools in their neighborhoods," Lyon said in a statement.

The DOE said in its proposal that Murry Bergtraum is in the process of reducing its enrollment and will lose a total of 450 students by the 2017-2018 academic year, to help the academically struggling school “improve by narrowing its focus on a smaller number of students." The reduction in the student body will take place whether or not the charter plan moves ahead, the DOE said.

Success Academy isn't the only school slated to move into Murry Bergtraum — the DOE is also putting an additional high school in the 411 Pearl St. building this fall.

A new technical high school created in cooperation with the National Parks Service, the Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School is opening next week inside Murry Bergtraum. The school will have 108 ninth-graders in its first year.

However, the Mather school will only remain in Murry Bergtraum for one year. After determining that there will not be enough lab space in Bergtraum for the school, the DOE wants to move Mather next year to a Hell's Kitchen building at 435 W. 49th St., which already houses five other schools, including the High School of Graphic Communication Arts and another Success Academy charter elementary school.

When Mather moves out of Bergtraum next fall, the DOE wants to replace it with another high school that just opened in the West 49th Street building, The Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management.

The proposals still have to be approved by the Panel for Education Policy, which will vote on the co-locations on Oct. 15.

The DOE will hold a public hearing on all three co-location proposals on Oct. 9, in Murry Bergtraum at 6 p.m. There will also be a public hearing on the changes related to Mather and the Urban Assembly school at 6 p.m. on Sept. 30, in the Hell's Kitchen school at 435 W. 49 St.

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