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March 8, 2011 / Brooklyn news / Boerum Hill / Brooklyn Is Angry

City plans to takes space from autism program at PS 32 for charter school

The Brooklyn Paper

A city plan to squeeze a charter school into a Carroll Gardens public school will severely undermine a well-respected and widely emulated program for autistic students, opponents say.

Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is readying a move from Sunset Park into PS 32 on Hoyt and Union streets, a proposal that critics say will eliminate space dedicated to the school’s 40 autistic students.

“Our school is going to be radically altered,” said Larissa Bailiff, whose autistic son Evan is a first-grader at the school.

As part of the so-called Nest program, autistic kids at PS 32 are integrated into regular, classroom settings with a maximum of 16 students.

They’re also provided with special socialization and behavioral exercises in separate rooms, which will all but vanish once the charter school comes to roost, Bailiff said.

“There won’t be room for them to be pulled out of class and work in small groups,” Bailiff said.

And that could be hard on kids with autism — a spectrum of developmental disorders affecting social and communication skills — who can be unusually distressed by changes to routine.

But city stats list the school building as underutilized, allowing the charter school’s 300, sixth-through-eighth-grade students to occupy 12 classrooms, with the other 500 kids from PS 32, and the New Horizons Middle School — which also shares space in the building — filling out the remaining 34 rooms.

City officials insisted that the charter school’s relocation is only temporary until it can make a permanent move to space at Douglass Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus.

“Brooklyn Prospect would move out no later than Aug. 1, 2012,” the city stated in a description.

School officials were galled.

“I don’t see this plan as one that puts children first,” said Adam Marcus, the PS 32 librarian. “They are taking a program that we have successfully run that requires smaller class size, and turning that around.”

In 2003, PS 32 was the first school to host the Nest program, which has since expanded to more than 20 schools citywide.

The Department of Education already seems ready to bend. Agency spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said officials do not believe the move would “adversely” affect the school’s autistic population, but added, “We are currently reassessing our options for the charter school.”

The teacher’s union painted the plan as part of purposeful strategy to destroy neighborhood schools, and said it did not believe that the school would be gone in just a year, as the city claimed in the plan.

“They take more and more of your space,” said Rebecca Alford, a chapter leader at the teacher’s union.

“Take a look at PS 15,” she said, referring to the Red Hook school where a charter school was given three more years in the building before it has to find a new home.

And parents said they’re already considering options for next year.

“There won’t be any reason to keep my son in the program because all the great services he’s been getting won’t be up to par anymore — because they won’t have any space in which to do them,” said a Windsor Terrace mom who wished to remain anonymous.

“Sticking them in cubby holes isn’t the same kind of service.”

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the matter at the International High School [883 Classon Ave, between President and Union streets in Prospect Heights, (718) 622-6496], April 28 at 6 pm.

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Joey from Clinton Hills says:
sorry folks, Brooklyn's population of yuppies is exploding and the horde needs better schools for their kids...every underenrolled school is going to be squeezed to make room for more kids.
March 8, 2011, 10:52 am
Gregory Goings says:
Contrary to Joey's description, many if not most of PS 32's students come from the Gowanus Houses. Don't they deserve a good school that includes the services they need? This is not a class issue.
March 8, 2011, 2:22 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
I think the situation in Brooklyn is: good schools - super overcrowded; underachieving schools - underenrolled; charters are put in the buildings with underenrolled schools; charter students are public school students also.
March 8, 2011, 3:22 pm
Cat Weaver from Sunset Park says:
I wrote the Mayor's office, including city officials and sent them a letter calling their attention to this matter.

You can do it on the site.
http://1.usa.gov/gdH3mD

You can use my letter as a starter:

Dear Mayor Boomberg:

I want to call to your attention to the plight of a special program.

In 2003, PS 32 was the first school to host the Nest program,which places autistic children in classrooms with other children. Since then, the milestone program has expanded to more than 20 schools citywide. It works.

Now that program,is being threatened by city plans to embed a charter school in the building,thus disrupting the nesting plan that depends on space & special attention. What is more, the proposed change would be a major disruption for autistic kids who who can be unusually distressed by changes to routine.

Autistic children and their parents have been well served by PS 32 and they really do deserve and NEED the continued support of the Mayor's office to hold on to this program that they have counted on.
March 8, 2011, 7:19 pm
greater good from cg says:
it's so very hard to keep one's eye on the BIG PICTURE and what benefits the GREATER GOOD. but we have to try, don't we. it's so easy to become myopic and see only what matters to us alone.
March 8, 2011, 9:01 pm
Proud PS32 Parent from PLG says:
Joey and others,
This is not a Charter vs. Public School Issue, nor is it Special Ed vs. Regular Education question.
PS32 is not an under-enrolled/under-utilized school. Its space has been miscalculated due to the fact that its Autism classroom ratio is 12 -16 (Gen Ed and On the Spectrum) students instead of 25/classroom or more. So on paper for someone not paying attention, it immediately looks under-enrolled in general. The 16 student/class is a govt. mandate (and an important one). But was simply forgotten by the DOE when they were desperately looking for extra room for the particular Charter School. PS32 has received an A for the last 3 years. This is not a case of a failing school. They must be doing something right. Happy parents, excellent grade, enrollment fine. Great art and music teachers. Fantastic grade teachers, therapists, and librarian. Building an amazing library. Lots of enrichment and other great programs. Increasing parental involvement. Many recent grants received for projects and for the library.

Leave it alone. Sounds like a no brainer.
Greater Good? How about the Greater Good of all of the 300 elementary students at PS32, who already share their building, gym, auditorium, and cafeteria with the middle school upstairs?
Is it greater good for the govt. to have to pay for private school and private OT/speech services for 46 autistic children who might need to be relocated if the PS32 and its NEST program fails? Please consider that.
March 8, 2011, 11:14 pm

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