The city says it’s scrapping plans to put an elementary school inside Marine Park JHS, and parents are cheering their third victory in a fight to keep an autonomous school out of the building — but are wondering if the city will ever install what they want there: a program for autistic students.
“We don’t understand why the city doesn’t just see the light,” parent Louise Quinlan said. “We’re still on the edge of our seats waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
For two years, residents and teachers have been battling the city’s plans to eat up roughly 300 empty seats in the building, on Stuart Street between Avenue S and Filmore Avenue, with a new, independent institution. The latest plan would have placed the New American Academy 2, a public school that would enroll as many as 325 kindergartners through fifth graders by 2016, inside the school. But parents, who were planning to protest that proposal on March 14, argued it would take up too much space.
“We were ready to do battle with the city,” said Quinlan, who added that the school couldn’t afford to give up space “that our middle school needs.”
With a fourth fight on the horizon, parents are gearing up for their latest push for the autism classes.
Called a “NEST” program, parents say the program would fill a void, as autistic students in the neighborhood now have to travel Downtown or to Queens for classes, but the city has made no mention of implementing the program.
That doesn’t sit well with locals.
“There is no program for middle school students with autism in the entirety of Southern Brooklyn,” said Councilmen Lew Filder (D–Canarsie). “We have the space, we have the desire, now, we have to get it done.”
The Department of Education said it postponed the plan for New American Academy 2 so it can evaluate the effectiveness of a sister school located in Crown Heights that opened last fall.
Two years ago, parents defeated a proposal that would site the Hebrew Language Academy charter school. And late last year, parents stopped the city’s plan to put a small high school within the building, citing concerns about mixing age groups.