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2 Bushwick Schools Fight Co-Location With Charter School

By Serena Dai | January 15, 2015 5:43pm
 I.S. 349 and I.S. 347, two middle schools located at 35 Starr St., are fighting a proposal for Achievement First charter schools to bring a high school to their building.
2 Bushwick Schools Fight Charter Co-Location
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BUSHWICK — A plan to house a new charter school in a building already occupied by two public schools outraged parents and teachers at a meeting on the proposal Wednesday night.

More than 150 elected officials, teachers, parents and community members packed the auditorium at 35 Starr St., which houses both I.S. 349 and I.S. 347, Wednesday night to fight a proposal to co-locate an Achievement First high school there as well.

Achievement First, which has charters across the city, is proposing housing a high school called Achievement First University Prep Charter in the building, with a projected 420 to 520 students by the 2018-2019 school year.

Middle schools I.S. 349 and I.S. 347 have struggled through the years, said Evett Villafone, who sent four children to the schools.

She said the schools are now finally finding their footing, especially with I.S. 349's plans to add community resources like immigration services, and adding a high school will jeopardize their progress by taking away resources.

"Things are happening here," Villafone said. "Why stunt it now?"

Rogelio Parris, principal of  I.S. 349, said the co-location would divert too much of his time to the logistics of running three schools in the building, which has just one communal staircase.

The extra space could be used to grow programs like dual language classes at their school, instead, locals said.

"I do not want to spend my time negotiating who is going to use the gym, when am I going to have lunch, where are our kids going to go?" Parris said. "This is not the time. We both have schools that have challenges. We need to improve the education of our children."

Achievement First said in a statement that it has had several successful co-locations in Brooklyn.

"We look forward to continuing to partner with school leadership, community leaders and the Department of Education to ensure the AF University Prep High co-location is a positive experience for all students and staff," the charter school said in a statement.

But Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, Councilman Antonio Reynoso and a representative for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez didn't believe it, and all spoke up against the co-location as well.

They likened the co-location to locals being pushed out of their homes.

Many teachers and parents feared that the co-location was the first step toward the public schools getting kicked out of the building, despite assurances that they would not lose resources.

"We are systematically being displaced from this community. Systematically," Reynoso said. "What we're doing is asking the principal to build a house, but the DOE is going to make it rain every single day."

"When the house doesn’t get built, they’re going to blame the principal," he said.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on Achievement First's proposal on Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Taft Educational Campus in the Bronx.