CARROLL GARDENS — The Department of Education's failure to provide a relocation plan for M.S. 442 despite announcing the move a year ago has hurt its enrollment as many prospective families given offers for sixth grade are opting to go elsewhere, parents say.
Because of a new 436-seat annex to be constructed for P.S. 32, which is currently co-located with M.S. 442 Carroll Gardens School for Innovation at 317 Hoyt St., the middle school is being forced to move to a new location next year.
But the DOE's preliminary plan to move the small middle school with a highly regarded program serving autistic children into a struggling high school has already had a huge impact on M.S. 442.
“Several parents went with other options because of the impending move and lack of certainty in the future on where we’ll be,” M.S. 442’s parent coordinator Ed Castro said. The attrition rate was higher than other years, he said.
Though many parents were relieved in the spring when the DOE delayed a vote on plans to move their small middle school into a building with a high school, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, the lack of a comprehensive plan has been a burden on the school for two straight years.
"For a second year in a row, potential families will choose not to apply even though M.S. 442 is the right fit for their child," M.S. 442 mom Jody Drezner Alperin said Thursday evening at a news conference outside the school.
"That uncertainty exists because the DOE is failing to do their job, not because the school isn't doing a good job."
Many families opted for charters or private schools, parents said.
The empty seats are a cause for concern for several current M.S. 442 families who worry not only that it would affect their school’s bottom line — since budgets are determined by enrollment — but that it also meant the DOE would send over-the-counter transfer students to the school — meaning students who had nowhere else to go and do not necessarily want to be at M.S. 442.
Parents noted that about a third of prospective students took offers elsewhere, though specific data was not immediately available.
The DOE said Thursday that they are exploring potential options to address the issues raised.
After delaying the move last spring, M.S. 442 families had hoped the DOE would begin open discussions about plans for the move. But months have passed without significant conversations.
They were incensed last school year when officials presented plans for how their school would share the space since the DOE’s plans shared with the middle school appeared at odds with plans presented separately to the high school already in the building. Families feared it would set the stage for conflict rather than collaboration.
Parents at M.S. 442 have also expressed the importance of sharing a building with a school that understands its much-lauded ASD Nest Program, where children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are “nested” in small-sized classrooms co-taught with general education students. Many parents of students in the program worry about co-mingling in hallways with potentially rowdy high schoolers, who may be up to six years older than the middle school kids.
But as new plans have yet to be discussed — and issues with the current plan have yet to be addressed —parents at M.S. 442 are in an awkward position. As the middle school tour season is about to start once again, current families are unable to speak to concerns future families might have about where the school might be located.
For the community, the concern isn't that the DOE won't be able to find a building for the school by next year, said City Councilman Brad Lander, who has expressed support for the parents.
"The worry is that they won't find it in time for the fall recruitment of kids," he said.