LOWER MANHATTAN — The Department of Education should stop shoehorning new schools into existing school buildings and forcing different programs to share space, parents and elected officials from across the city said at a protest on Tuesday.
The parents — members of Community Education Councils in lower and northern Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn — gathered on the steps of the DOE's Tweed Courthouse to speak out against co-located schools and demand that the DOE listen to their feedback.
"We're here because co-locations do not work," said Miriam Aristy-Farer, president of the District 6 Community Education Council in Washington Heights and Inwood. "We've had enough of this for 12 years now — stop."
The parents slammed a plan by the city to open three new six-year career and technical education high schools in existing buildings in Inwood, the Lower East Side and Long Island City. The schools — which would allow students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree in health sciences, advertising or computer science — were announced on Aug. 15, while most parents were away for the summer and while new CECs were still figuring out the basics of their duties, parents said.
"Our communities have not been allowed time to be properly engaged before being put on [Panel for Educational Policy] calendars," said Aristy-Farer.
The PEP will vote on the school co-locations in October, after holding public hearings in each affected school district.
DOE spokesman Devon Puglia responded to the parents' concerns by saying that the department is listening to what parents want.
"Across the five boroughs, parents demand great options for their kids, and we’re delivering new ones through an open, transparent process that both seeks and incorporates community feedback," Puglia said. "Children will be served well by these proposals.”
However, Lisa Donlan, president of District 1's CEC on the Lower East Side, said the DOE's co-location proposals don't take into account the needs of existing schools.
"This game of domino overcrowding of schools doesn't work," Donlan said, adding that she is particularly concerned about a plan to put one of the new career high schools inside University Neighborhood High School's Monroe Street building. "It sets schools up for failure."
District 1's CEC held a protest against the University Neighborhood co-location last week, while District 6's CEC started a petition against co-locations that has gathered more than 200 signatures.
Natasha Capers, a parent from Brownsville, spoke for many of the parents at the press conference when she said she wanted to protect any available space in public schools, rather than cramming it with additional students and schools, as the DOE appears determined to do.
"What's wrong with space?" Capers asked. "Why should my school not have space for a cafeteria, an auditorium and a gymnasium?"