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Parents and DOE Trade Blame for Potential Delays to UWS School Opening

By Emily Frost | October 24, 2013 3:01pm | Updated on October 24, 2013 3:14pm
 The DOE is moving too slowly in its plans to open a new school in the soon-to-be vacated Beacon High School building, parents charged. 
Parents Accuse DOE of Delaying in Opening New School at Beacon
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents awaiting a new school on the site of the former Beacon School fear that city Department of Education foot-dragging will delay its 2015 opening, they said at a community meeting Wednesday night.

Local parents and education leaders accused the DOE of moving too slowly with plans for the West 61st Street school and not involving them enough.

"I think we’re actually in a horrible time crunch. I think you’re a year behind at this point," P.S. 87 parent Marcy Drogan said Wednesday night, pointing out the DOE hadn't announced whether the school will be for elementary, middle or high school students, or some combination of those, or what kind of programming it will have.

But DOE reps countered they're still waiting to hear the community's vision for the school, whose site became available because the Beacon School is moving to Hell's Kitchen to accommodate more students.

The DOE asked the district's community education council last October to weigh in on plans for the new school. 

But a year later, neither the Community Education Coucil 3 nor the Community Board 7-led working group, which was formed last spring to address the school's future, has given the DOE a formal resolution on what the community wants for the space, according to Yael Kalban of the DOE's Division of Portfolio Planning.

CB7 chairman Mark Diller confirmed the working group had not met since a town hall held in June 2012, citing the difficulty to coordinating the schedules of the 12-member group.

The DOE has been waiting for parents' and leaders' input, Kalban said.

"We have not been making any decisions about grade levels or models. We’ve been waiting to hear from the community, " she said.

With the current timeline for the school, Kalban said the DOE may not be able to list the institution in a booklet that will go out to parents in fall 2014, advising them of their school choices for the following fall. The booklet will be finalized and printed in spring 2014.

"I cannot at this point promise that we’re going be able to get whatever goes into this building [listed] into the first admission round," she said. 

"We are going to do everything we can...I don’t want to promise it," Kalban added. 

Parents said they feared this would give the new school a weak start and potentially leave it under-enrolled and without parent buy-in.

"It’s completely absurd that these decisions would not be made…so that there’s an admission process for the 2015-2016 year for round one. There’s no other acceptable plan," Drogan said.

The President's Council, another parent association for the district, submitted a resolution to the DOE asking that "the former Beacon building be used to house a new middle school and a new [District 3] preference high school," said Nan Mead, co-president of the council.

Several area schools, including P.S.9, P.S. 199 and M.S. 245, have also signed on to the resolution, which was submitted to the DOE this week, Mead said.

CEC 3 president Joe Fiordaliso said that group would also issue a resolution soon.

"I’m confident we’ll make a recommendation in short order," he said.