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Education Leaders Demand DOE Revise Beacon HS Construction Schedule

By Emily Frost | December 12, 2014 1:03pm | Updated on December 15, 2014 9:00am
 Education leaders and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged the DOE to move up its construction deadline to August 2015. 
Leaders Not Confident About Beacon High School Construction Timeline
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Education leaders and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are calling on the Department of Education to revise the construction timetable for the new Beacon High School in Hell's Kitchen, saying the proposed move-in dates a week before classes begin don't provide enough wiggle room.

At recent public meetings, the DOE did not give parents and leaders enough assurances that construction of the Beacon School's new Hell's Kitchen campus is on schedule, Community Education Council 3 members said in a Dec. 9 letter to DOE officials. 

The Beacon School's current West 61st Street campus will become home to the West End Secondary School once Beacon vacates the space, but local education leaders worry the growth of both schools could be stunted by any possible delay.

"Further we believe that even if the [School Construction Authority] were to adhere to its stated construction schedule and the verbally proposed September 1 move-in dates — less than a week before schools open — it would preclude the schools from setting up operations in time for the 2015-2016 school year," CEC 3's letter stated.  

The education council did not, however, propose a new move-in date for the two schools, nor did it shed light on why it felt the Hell's Kitchen campus construction might be delayed. 

The SCA "does what it wants, it doesn’t listen. If you don’t sit on them, they won’t deliver," said CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum at a recent meeting.

The council called for the SCA to attend its Jan. 7 meeting to answer its concerns, and a DOE spokesman confirmed an agency representative would attend the meeting.

Beacon High School's popularity precipitated its move from West 61st Street to the under-construction Hell's Kitchen space at 521 W. 43rd St., which is a former New York Public Library annex. After the move was announced, the DOE agreed to use the old Beacon building for the new 6-12 West End Secondary School, which is set to open this September. The public school can only move into the West 61st Street building once Beacon vacates the building.

The new West End Principal, Jessica Jenkins, did not respond to request for comment.  

Under the current plan, "it could take weeks for Beacon students to be able to focus on learning — which is unfair to both the students and the school," Manhattan Borough President Brewer testified at a Nov. 17 DOE hearing on Beacon. 

Still, CEC 3 President Joe Fiordaliso urged his colleagues to take a measured approach to the situation at a recent meeting. 

"I don’t want to create a hysterical dynamic in the district... I’d want to be careful that any tone that we strike might create any alarm or hysteria here," he said.

CEC members want to evaluate for themselves whether the Hell's Kitchen work, which began in the summer of 2012, is going as planned. They asked that the DOE allow them to tour the site with construction experts.

Non-construction personnel, however, will not be allowed onto the site until construction is finished, a DOE spokesman said. At that point, the CEC will be invited to tour the building, he said.

The DOE spokesman also said the construction should be finished in early August, at which point both schools can begin moving in to their new spaces.