By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — The Panel for Educational Policy approved a plan Wednesday to house three additional grades from Harlem Children's Zone's Promise Academy schools at the Choir Academy of Harlem.
The Choir Academy of Harlem's approximately 350 students used to have the entire building at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 127th Street to themselves, but they were relegated to the third floor after they began sharing the building with kindergarten through sixth-grade students at the Promise Academy II charter school.
Now, they will also share the space with a fourth grade class from Promise Academy I, and Promise Academy II will also be allowed to add new seventh and eighth-grader classes inside the same building.
Parents, teachers and students at the Choir Academy say they feel they are being pushed out of the school.
"There are too many kids as it is," said Harlem Choir Academy bi-lingual special education teacher Lucero Corredor. "The kids can't walk down the same staircase."
Choir Academy supporter Carlton Berkely called the co-location " separate and unequal" at a meeting on the issue earlier this week.
"What you are doing by taking our classrooms is systematically eliminating us," he said.
But DOE and Harlem Children's Zone officials say the move is only temporary. A new K-12 school for Promise Academy I is being built on the grounds of St. Nicholas Houses. When it is completed in late 2012, Promise Academy II would return to serving only K-6 students in the Choir Academy of Harlem building.
"Right now both Promise Academy schools are at capacity and will be adding a grade each of the next two years, so we are in temporary, but dire need of additional classroom space," said Harlem Children's Zone spokesperson Marty Lipp.
The PEP panel also voted to open a new middle school at I.S.195 Roberto Clemente, which is located at 625 W. 133rd St. PEP had previously voted to phase out Roberto Clemente. KIPP Infinity Charter School already shares space at the building.
In addition, KIPP High School, a combination of high school grades from three KIPP schools, will be temporarily co-located at Roberto Clemente until the 2013-2014 school year when a private building for KIPP High School is expected to be completed. They are currently located at the Mott Haven Educational Campus in the Bronx.