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Parents Demand Answers Over Possible Move of Middle School 442

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 25, 2016 4:08pm
 MS 442 is currently located at 317 Hoyt St. in Gowanus.
MS 442 is currently located at 317 Hoyt St. in Gowanus.
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Facebook/Carroll Gardens School For Innovation M.S. 442

BROOKLYN — Parents at a Gowanus middle school are frustrated by the lack of answers they're getting from the Department of Education over a proposal to move their students to another building half-a-mile away.

M.S. 442 Carroll Gardens School for Innovation is currently co-located with P.S. 32, an elementary school, at 317 Hoyt St. and may be forced to move because of an addition planned for P.S. 32.

P.S. 32, a pre-K to 5th grade school, is getting a 436-seat annex to replace classroom trailers that it's been using for roughly 15 years, officials said last year. District 15, which also includes Park Slope, Red Hook and Sunset Park, is overcrowded and the DOE has been searching for ways to increase capacity.

Construction on the annex is expected to begin in September 2016 and is estimated for completion in June 2019.

As a result of that construction however, M.S. 442 will likely have to move out of P.S. 32's building and into Cobble Hill School of American Studies, a high school at 327 Baltic St. — but the DOE, which has not yet released an official proposal, has offered parents only pieces of information.

"You cannot build capacity for students at one age and not take into account students at a different age," said MS 442 mom Jody Drezner Alperin.

"They're going for the Band-aid approach," said Megan Nyhan, whose son is a sixth grader at MS 442. 

When parents last fall learned about the possible move, they were told it would happen in September 2016. The District 15 Community Education Council, Councilman Brad Lander and parents have recommended delaying the relocation by a year.

But the Department of Education told DNAinfo on Thursday that it is now considering 2017-18 school year for the possible re-siting. 

District 15 superintendent Anita Skop said Thursday she had not been officially informed of the timeline and that “this is still a very much an undone deal.”

MS 442, known as New Horizons until 2012, has undergone major changes in recent years. With a focus on intense teacher training and its ASD Nest program for children with autism, the school has attracted many new families in the area, according to a Chalkbeat profile from November 2015. 

The school was also selected as one of Chancellor Carmen Fariña's "showcase schools."

But with the move to the Baltic Street building, parents are concerned the new space won't be adequate to continue their current level of programming.

"It's very frustrating for the school community to have made such amazing strides ... and then to have a situation where it's out of control to keep going down that path," said Drezner Alperin, whose son is a sixth grader at MS 442.

More than 770 parents have signed a petition calling for a full relocation plan that gives them the amenities they need and room to grow their enrollment. MS 442's student population is 220.

According to 2014-15 data from the School Construction Authority, the enrollment of Cobble Hill School for American Studies is 596 and the building capacity is only 806.

Drezner Alperin said in order to have a "true collaboration" during the relocation, the DOE can't just "thrust two schools in the community together."

Parent leaders at the school have attended a handful of meetings with DOE officials since last fall, but few concrete details have emerged.

If the move were to take place, MS 442 would get 17 classrooms in the high school as compared to 19 in their current building, Drezner Alperin and Nyhan said. Along with losing classroom space, Cobble Hill School of American Studies would have to forego some administrative offices to create a bigger cafeteria.

Officials at the school did not respond to request for comment.

At a Community Education Council meeting Tuesday night in Sunset Park with the School Construction Authority, local parents pressed city officials for details on MS 442's relocation plan. But SCA representative Yvette Knight said her agency does not make decisions regarding co-locations.

Parents also questioned why MS 442 was not included in the latest capital plan, arguing that money was needed to retrofit classrooms at Cobble Hill School of American Studies for the middle school's curriculum. 

"I'll have to get back to you," Knight said. "I'm thinking that it's part of the [P.S.] 32 planned dollars."

Knight said that the new addition at P.S. 32 would add to the capacity of the district and M.S. 442's possible relocation would not affect it. 

"Moving this school is not something that will impact capacity in terms of numbers," she said.