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Bronx Middle School Parents Angered at Success Academy Co-Location Proposal

By Eddie Small | March 30, 2015 2:04pm
 Parents, teachers and students at Arturo Toscanini Middle School are upset over the possibility that a Success Academy will move into their building.
Bronx Success Academy Could Move Into Building with Three Middle Schools
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CONCOURSE VILLAGE — Parents, students and teachers are fuming mad about a city proposal to expand a Success Academy charter school into a Bronx building that already houses three middle schools, arguing the addition will make the school crowded and dangerous.

"The impression I get is that their kids are more important than our kids," said Jim Donohue, an eighth grade English teacher at Arturo Toscanini, one of the middle schools in the building. "I don't understand why they get to push half a school aside."

The Department of Education has proposed adding grades three through five of Success Academy Bronx 3, now located at 968 Cauldwell Ave., into the building at 1000 Teller Ave., which currently houses three schools serving grades six through eight: Arturo Toscanini, the Urban Science Academy and New Millennium Business Academy Middle School.

The building also contains an Alternate Learning Center for students who are serving suspensions of up to 90 days.

Success Academy Bronx 3 serves students in kindergarten through second grade, and the school requires more space to add on third, fourth and fifth grade, according to spokeswoman Ann Powell.

"There are too many students for that," Maria German, whose son is in eighth grade at Arturo Toscanini, said. "It's too much."

Her son Angel Garcia, 13, worried that some of the building's older students could bully the younger ones at Success Academy if they move in.

"I think it's not very well-planned," he said of the proposal.

Muriel Simon, whose daughter is in the sixth grade at Arturo Toscanini, shared this concern and predicted that the co-location would lead to "a lot of conflict, a lot of fights."

"You see how some of them are rowdy," she said as a group of students ran by.

Success spokeswoman Powell played down bullying fears and pledged that Success Academy would work closely with the building's other schools and security to establish a strong safety system for its students.

"Several other Success Academies currently share space with middle schools and high schools," she said. "As with all NYC co-locations — district and charter — our schools occupy a specific part of the building, and while we share space, we operate entirely as our own school."

The building at 1000 Teller Ave. would also remain under-enrolled even after Success Academy moves in, according to the DOE.

It has a capacity of 1,737 students and currently serves about 920, meaning it is roughly 53 percent full. When Success Academy is serving all three grades, the building will host 1,280 students, keeping it under capacity, the DOE said.

Representatives from the Urban Science and New Millennium Business Academies did not respond to requests for comment.

The co-location would be for at least three years and could last longer, according to the DOE.

A public hearing on the proposal will take place at 1000 Teller Ave. on April 16 at 6 p.m., and the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the matter at their April 29 meeting on 100 Hester St. at 6 p.m.

Parents at Arturo Toscanini said they were also confused by the DOE's attempt to bring elementary school students into the building given that the agency moved out Arturo Toscanini's fifth grade class a few years ago because they said the students were not ready for a middle school environment.

The DOE said that it only changed the school's grade structure to have it better align with other middle schools in its school district, according to an agency spokesman.

Jennifer Spies, an art teacher at Arturo Toscanini, argued that co-locating with Success Academy was a bad idea, given that it would put eight-year-olds in the same building as 14-year-olds.

"It's very unfair to the children first, to everyone who works here second," she said.