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Bushwick school battle: Parents, teachers try to stop the city from forcing a third school into Bushwick Avenue building • Brooklyn Paper

Bushwick school battle: Parents, teachers try to stop the city from forcing a third school into Bushwick Avenue building

Fighting for their right: Parents, teachers, and students stand united in opposition to the city’s plan to move a third school into a Bushwick Avenue building.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A city plan to shoehorn a third school into a Bushwick building has parents and teachers there demanding they keep the place old school.

The building on Bushwick Avenue between Meserole Avenue and Scholes Street already contains two schools — the pre-kindergarten through fifth grade PS 196 and the sixth grade through eighth grade MS 582, but, according to Department of Education, can still fit plenty more students. Now, the city wants to add a second, independently run middle school, and that has stakeholders fearing a battle that doesn’t need to happen.

“The schools are going to be competing against one another,” said Rob Burstein, an English as Second Language teacher at PS 196 who is leading the charge of protest against the city’s plan. “This is going to damage the children’s education.”

District 14 Community Education Council, which covers Greenpoint, Williambrg, Bushwick and some of Bedford-Stuyvesant, had requested a new middle school somewhere on the border of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant, because it thought kids there were forced to travel too far from home to get to class. But even the members say the city should come up with a different plan.

“There is no logic in this,” said council president Tesa Wilson, who argued that the city should simply expand the MS 582 or create a new school some place else.

The city says it plans to create two middle schools instead of enlarging the existing one because children tend to fare better in a smaller school setting.

“A once broken system has been transformed with new, high performing schools — and those additional options have delivered extraordinary outcomes for children,” said city spokesman Harry Hartfield. “Our strategy has worked, and with this new school, that progress will continue.”

The city said that with 340 students in the elementary school and 270 students in the middle school, 207 Bushwick Ave. is only at 64 percent capacity. That means the new middle school could hold up to 343 additional students.

But many in the opposition say that number is deceiving.

“There are many clubs that meet once a week here and they use a spare room like an art room or a computer room,” said Burstein. “Some of them will have to go by the wayside because there isn’t enough room for all of them.”

Additionally, Burnstein claimed some special education programs might be shoved into the same room at the same time. For example, Burstein said his English as a second language class does not have a classroom, and instead uses others that are free. With more students in the building, he anticipates that classes such as that one might now get only a corner.

“The idea that we could conduct reasonably good classes in that chaos is absurd,” he said.

Wilson agrees.

“They say they have luxury rooms, but these extra rooms aren’t luxuries, they are rights,” said Wilson.

Wilson also said that the city seems to be unaware that the building is under construction and that there is not currently a working auditorium.

“They haven’t even stepped foot in there to see the reality of the situation,” she said.

Some parents said they plan to remove their children from the school if the co-location goes through.

“All the kids need to stay focused,” said Amanda Munoz, who has daughters in seventh and fifth grade. “If they put another school in there, it’s going to take away from that.”

There will be a public hearing at 5:30 pm on Oct. 21 at the school. The opposing parents and teachers plan to hold a rally starting at 4:30 pm. The city plans to start enrolling sixth graders for the 2014–15 school year.

The new school would be run by the Department of Education, and will not be a charter school, where a private company is paid by the city to run it.

Public hearing on co-location of a new school at PS 186 and MS 582. Monday, Oct. 21 at 5:30 pm. 207 Bushwick Ave. between Meserole Avenue and Scholes Street. (718) 497-0139.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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