One year after the city tried to foist its first Arabic language academy into a Park Slope elementary school — sparking weeks of protests by PTA parents — the city is trying to do almost precisely the same thing, this time in Fort Greene.
The Department of Education wants to permanently place the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which plans to house grades 6–12, into PS 287, an elementary school on Navy Street, between Flushing Avenue and the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway.
Parents of students at the school are voicing concerns quite similar to those expressed by parents at Park Slope’s PS 282 last March, namely, that high school and elementary schools children should not be studying under the same roof. As a result of that argument, the Gibran school was ultimately housed in a middle- and high-school complex on Dean Street in Boerum Hill.
This time, the city has picked a school that has experience with educating young kids and teens in the same building. The Gibran Academy would replace the High School for Law and Justice, which is currently sharing space with PS 287, but is relocating to an old Family Court building.
PTA President Edgardo Rivera said good riddance.
“High schools kids will be high school kids,” said Rivera, who has a daughter in fifth grade and a son in pre-K. “When you’re that age, you’re discovering who you are as a person, your sexual inclinations. The little kids have seen them smoking, kissing.”
Then there’s the question of space. According to Rivera, the elementary school kids have to share their cafeteria and gymnasium with the high-schoolers, which means early lunches and gym only once a week.
Neither PS 287 Principal Michele Rawlins, nor Gibran Academy Principal Holly Reichert returned requests for comment.
Absent from the controversy this time — unlike the fight in Park Slope — is the very notion of whether the city should have an Arabic language and culture academy in the first place.
“The issue is space — that’s it,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene).
Melody Meyer, a Department of Education spokeswoman, stressed that the plan to relocate the school into PS 287 was merely a proposal.
“We certainly want to continue the dialogue,” said Meyer. “We don’t want to open the school where it won’t have support.”