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DOE Reverses Decision to Move Innovation High from the UWS

By Emily Frost | January 14, 2013 4:06pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Education has reversed its plan to move Innovation Diploma Plus High School, one of the five schools at the Brandeis High complex, to a new building in Washington Heights after strong opposition from the Upper West Side community.

The DOE was set to vote on the move on Jan. 16th, but City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, along Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and other community leaders, have been lobbying the department to reconsider its decision.

Brewer announced Friday the DOE had withdrawn its plan, which would have moved the 189-student high school to the Community Health Academy of the Heights on West 183th Street.

"Had it gone ahead, the proposal would have dislocated hundreds of students from a first-rate facility where they are thriving [and] moved them to a third-rate facility with no high school amenities," said Brewer in a statement. 

As part of his explanation, Superintendent Anthony Lodico said in early December that only seven percent of students currently attending Innovation live in the school district, whereas 21 percent of the students live in District 6 in Washington Heights.

Brewer was among those who protested the expense of moving the high school, which serves students who have been unsuccessful at traditional high schools. The DOE said the move would cost $44,000, and construction of a science lab and fitness rooms would cost between $1.5 million and $3 million. 

Plus, she said, the students benefit from being co-located with three other high schools: Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, The Global Learning Collaborative, and Frank McCourt High School.  

"A major benefit of keeping Innovation at Brandeis is that these four schools can continue to share art rooms, theatres, science labs, and also athletic teams," said Brewer.

Students also said that leaving the Upper West Side location would mean losing the Life program, which allows them to attend school while their children are in daycare on the premises.

“This is a victory for everyone who came together and spoke out against this move, but it is most of all a victory for the students who can now stay in the campus and the community which they have been a part of for over three years," said Rosenthal in a statement.

According to a DOE spokesman, the department heeded the feedback it received: “We actively engage with and respond to the needs of the community.  Based on additional input from students, parents, and community leaders, Innovation Diploma Plus High School will remain at the Brandeis Campus." 

In early December, Innovation students, faculty, parents and neighbors testified in front of the DOE for several hours at Brandeis High. Many critics accused the DOE of moving Innovation students to make room for the coming expansion of Eva Moskowitz's Upper West Success Academy, which is also located in the complex. It is set to expand from a K-2 school to a K-5 school by 2015.

The DOE's full proposal can be found online here.