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Parents Push for Fewer Seats at Planned Village Middle School

 The building at 75 Morton St. will become a new public school by fall 2017, officials said.
The building at 75 Morton St. will become a new public school by fall 2017, officials said.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

WEST VILLAGE — Residents are pushing the Department of Education to reduce the number of students who will attend a new middle school opening at 75 Morton St. in 2017, worried that it will be too crowded.

The School Construction Authority initially estimated that the new middle school would serve 800 general education students and 100 special needs students, but after gaining access to the building and beginning to design the space, officials recently decided there was actually room for 900 general education students, with 10 classrooms per grade, the DOE said.

“Their argument was that the only way to make the school cost-effective was to serve a large number of students,” said Heather Lortie, coordinator of the 75 Morton Community Alliance, which had been pushing for the conversion of the building into a middle school since 2008.

The city's School Construction Authority announced their intention to place an additional 100 students into the building at a District 2 Community Education Council meeting this week, sparking concern from advocates who believe it's going to be too crammed.

The seven-story school's 100 special education seats will be set aside for a District 75 special needs program, DOE officials said. Special needs students will have their own floor, including two private speech therapy rooms and three auditory-sensory rooms.

The number of seats at 75 Morton St. is based on the building's square footage, officials told parents at this week's CEC meeting, according to advocates who attended the meeting.

The SCA will finalize design plans by the end of the summer, so that the school can open in the fall of 2017, said Shino Tanikawa, president of the District 2 CEC, who also attended the meeting. 

In addition to 30 classrooms, each about 750 square feet, the new school will also include three science labs, two art rooms, two music rooms, four reading resource rooms, an outdoor play area and space on the roof for a garden.

There will also be either a combined gym and auditorium or a smaller separate space for each. The separate auditorium would have the advantage of permanent seating, but it would only fit about 330 kids at a time, Tanikawa said the SCA announced.

The renovation of the existing former office building will include larger windows and a new bike parking area.

But some parents said they are pushing the DOE to reconsider the number of students, saying they'd like to see eight general education classes per grade rather than 10, so that the classrooms can be bigger to allow for more collaborative learning and group projects.

Tanikawa said she had some concerns about the design, including the number of students the building will hold, but added she was glad the community was involved in the planning process.

“It’s definitely a brand-new approach to building a new school building,” said Tanikawa. “This is a new beginning, and we’re thrilled to be involved.”