UPPER WEST SIDE — Local parents are calling for a middle school to fill the void after students from Beacon High School vacate the West 61st Street building.
When the popular high school, which boasts a 90 percent college acceptance rate, moves to a new, bigger building in Hell's Kitchen by the fall of 2015, parents want the 1,000-seat facility to be used for middle school students.
"In order to keep families here, we need to have enough seats," said Shauna Fitzgibbons, a parent who has helped organize an online petition to demand more middle school seats in the district.
Community Board 7 has organized a committee to help shepherd the decision-making process after education leaders received a mandate from the DOE to help it decide the building's future last fall.
At a public hearing organized by the committee Thursday night, parents voiced concerns about the future of the building. They feared the development of new apartment buildings, in the southern end of the district, where Beacon sits, has created competitiveness and overcrowding.
"When it gets to middle school we see a lot of ugly things. We see a lot of cheating, and with parents who will do anything to get their kids into a decent school," said parent Roger Miller.
The DOE hasn't dealt with the drastic increase, parents told the committee.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who supports Beacon becoming a new middle school, says she hears from parents all the time about the overcrowding problem.
"This district is teeming with children. Where do they go to school?" Rosenthal said parents have told her.
The Department of Education did not respond to questions seeking comments about the criticism.
Parents, some of whom called for more high school seats, too, said it was the perfect time to tackle the problem head on.
"We have an opportunity right in front of us," said Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, co-president of District 3's Presidents' Council. "We have a space right in front of us and would be complete idiots not to do something with it."
Some parents, meanwhile, worried that the DOE will use the site to house students while it redevelops P.S. 199 and/or P.S. 191. The department has proposed demolishing the buildings to sell the air rights to a developer who would then rebuild the schools at the base of a new luxury tower.
Noah Gotbaum, another member of the CEC who is running for City Council, called the DOE's plans for the schools, which it has not said whether it will execute, the "elephant in the room" in terms of deciding Beacon's future.
"If you really want access to this building and they go and knock down 191, where are [the students] going to go?" he said. "They’re going right into Beacon."
The committee said it would use the parents' feedback into a report, which it will present in three weeks.