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CEC Slams Plan for Charter School Inside Troubled Murry Bergtraum HS

By Irene Plagianos | September 17, 2013 2:52pm
 Murry Bergtraum may soon be home to a new Success Academy charter elementary school.
Murry Bergtraum may soon be home to a new Success Academy charter elementary school.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN — The District 2 Community Education Council is calling on the Department of Education to withdraw its controversial plan to open a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter elementary school inside Murry Bergtraum High School, which has a history of violence and academic struggles.

The CEC passed a resolution Monday evening that asks the DOE to scrap its proposal to put up to 600 young Success Academy students inside the Pearl Street high school. Murry Bergtraum 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.

"We just don't think this makes any sense," said Shino Tanikawa, the CEC president, before the group passed the resolution.

The CEC raised concerns about the safety of the young Success students and said it doesn't make sense to put an elementary school in a high school building.

The resolution also questioned the thoroughness of the DOE's planning in its "rush to implement as many co-locations as possible before the end of the current administration."

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 Success 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, especially one where cops have had to break up fights, is the right spot for young kids.

While 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, the general consensus among local parents is that Murry Bergtraum is not the right fit for an elementary school, parents said.

But the DOE has said it stands behind its plan.

"Across the city, we've taken a once broken system and transformed it with high performing new schools." said DOE spokesman Devon Puglia in an emailed statement.

"As parents clamor for more great schools, Success Academies have an outstanding track record in delivering for children, and a new school in this building will add to the high quality options available to families."

Success Academy, which CEC members said declined an invitation to speak at the Tuesday meeting, said they were "baffled" by the CEC's resolution.

"With countless families in District 2 searching for high quality public school options, we look forward to the opportunity to meet some of this demand," said Success spokeswoman Kerri Lyon in an email. 

"Why the CEC would oppose the highest performing public school organization in New York City from serving more local families is baffling."

The Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the new Success school in Murry Bergtraum on Oct. 15.