On January 21, DOE amended its hasty, knee-jerk proposal to add Brooklyn East Collegiate (BEC) to P.S. 9’s building, K009. The plan will require 3 schools to share the building until June 2013. Despite these changes, the proposal still has numerous critical errors and will drag all the involved schools into a space shortage. The co-location will severely harm the learning environment of elementary school students at P.S. 9 and will stunt the progress of a thriving community school. And now the DOE acknowledges it may need to be undone. Fortunately, this proposal can be delayed without cost.
Misleading errors and flaws in the plan include:
· DOE severely underestimates demand for the school from neighborhood parents, as shown by the ongoing kindergarten enrollment for fall 2011. After only 2 weeks of registration (through Jan. 27), 2011’s enrollment matched 2010’s total enrollment of 117. Yet registration is open six more weeks.
· DOE irresponsibly fails to allocate adequate classroom space for projected enrollment growth at P.S. 9, with the school likely be short by 9 classrooms within three years. If the school adds 1 kindergarten this fall, then 16 classes at P.S. 9 in 2015 will lack for classrooms.
· DOE is unfairly denying P.S. 9 a fair hearing for its plan to expand to a pre-K to 8 school. With DOE’s plans for M.S. 571’s unclear until early December 2010, P.S. 9’s leaders had no opportunity to propose expanding the school before the September 2010 deadline for a September 2011 start. For failing to consult with P.S. 9 and the community when making its plans, DOE must withdraw or delay the BEC co-location.
· The EIS (p.12) wrongly says that the school has 2 gyms. It has one.
· DOE takes no account of P.S. 9’s use of the gymnasium after 3 p.m. for two different afterschool programs serving over 90 families a day. Both of these would be dislodged by the middle schools’ gym classes and afterschool sports needs.
· In other ways, DOE underplays the space and schedule problems that will arise from 3 schools sharing the building. Under the BUP, P.S. 9 classes will have an average of 9 minutes each a week to use the library. Despite separation in all other realms, at breakfast, middle schoolers will mix with elementary students.
· DOE covers up the looming space shortage in K009 by prematurely stopping its projections of enrollment growth and building use, 2 years before the schools reach full scale.
· DOE dubiously asserts that Brooklyn East Collegiate cannot delay its move until 2012 or 2013. If BEC were to stay at K343 another year, it would be in a six-story building with a total of 610 students. At P.S. 9’s building, 920 or more students would be sharing a three-story building that is not even two-thirds the size of K343.
· At the last minute, Portfolio Planning inserted a clause in its proposal saying that the Chancellor reserves the right to move Brooklyn East Charter again if demand for elementary-school seats in the zone grow beyond expectations. Yet if this growth is at all likely – and this autumn’s kindergarten registration proves it is — then this plan risks too much disruption to too many children’s educations.
Let common sense and fairness prevail: tell DOE to withdraw this proposal, or else delay it until the enrollment picture in P.S. 9’s building becomes clearer.