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Don't Put New High School in IS 52, Parents Tell DOE

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 5, 2014 3:26pm
 Shanny Moreno, a parent at Inwood 52, said the DOE's plan to add a high school to the building would lead to overcrowding.
Shanny Moreno, a parent at Inwood 52, said the DOE's plan to add a high school to the building would lead to overcrowding.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

INWOOD — Parents and education advocates rallied in Inwood Wednesday morning against an unpopular new high school.

The parents want the Department of Education to back off plans to add a six-year technical high school in space already shared by the Inwood 52 middle school and the High School for Excellence and Innovation at 650 Academy St. 

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration approved the school co-location last year despite sharp critiques from locals, and while parents had hoped Mayor Bill de Blasio would reverse the move, the Department of Education said last week that it would go forward.

"Chancellor Fariña, I am asking you to listen to the parents," said Yuderka Valdez, a mother with two children in the school. "If you are here to listen to the parents, listen to us. We do not want another high school in our building."

The DOE announced plans last August to place a new career and technical high school in the Inwood 52 building. Students would start in the school in ninth grade and remain for six years, receiving an associate degree as well as a high school diploma. The school would feature partnerships with Microsoft and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

“This is a new Early College and Career Technical Education school for this community, one that is modeled after the nationally recognized P-Tech, which President Obama lauded in his 2013 State of the Union address and visited last year," DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said Wednesday. "It will be an exciting new option for students. With fantastic new industry partnerships, students in this neighborhood will benefit from a high school diploma, an associate degree, and top-notch internships. And this was the best building option in the neighborhood for this program.”

While parents agree that there is a need for a new high school in uptown's District 6, they do not feel that the Inwood 52 building is the right location. Several parents argued that the school would mix students as old as 20 with children as young as 10 and would lead to overcrowding.

"I don't want to have my son or my daughter in this school with a bunch of 20-year-olds," said Shanny Moreno, whose 14-year-old son attends Inwood 52. "By law, adults and children cannot mingle in the same rooms, and same bathrooms. How are going to do that? How are we going to fix that?"

The uproar from parents prompted northern Manhattan's elected officials — Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine — to write a letter to Fariña on Tuesday asking the DOE to consider relocating the school to a vacant former school building at 601 W. 183rd St.

"After listening to the concerns of the community, it seems that this location would be the most acceptable solution, bringing both a balanced response to the concerns about adding another school to the I.S. 52 building and ensuring that District 6 can be home to an amazing new high school that will create numerous opportunities for our children," the officials wrote.

DOE officials said that they reviewed the co-location plan after the de Blasio administration began and ultimately decided that the Inwood 52 space was the best location. The 183rd Street building did not have space to accommodate the school, the DOE said. Officials also said that Inwood 52 would not lose its marching band or arts rooms and refuted claims that the co-location would harm Inwood 52's ability to serve English language learners and students with disabilities. 

The co-location is also the subject of a lawsuit from Public Advocate Letitia James, who filed papers in December seeking to overturn 42 co-locations that were approved by the DOE in October.

Arthur Schwartz, an attorney on the pending case, said that the lawsuit would be moving forward in the next few weeks. 

"We're not going to just threaten to go to court — we're already in court," Schwartz said.