P.S. 15 parents sue city

Red Hook parents are appealing the city’s decision to keep a charter school in P.S. 15’s building.

Two parents of P.S. 15 students have joined Advocates for Children of New York in filing suit against the decision by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) of the city Department of Education (DOE).

“We felt this did not meet the letter of the law,” explained John Battis, who filed the lawsuit with Lydia Bellahcene.

Parents believed the PEP had voted to keep the PAVE Academy Charter School in P.S. 15 for three years, a reduction from the initially proposed five. However, they were upset to learn that the PEP’s official resolution does not indicate a timeline.

It reads, “The Panel for Educational Policy hereby approves the proposal to extend the co-location of PAVE Academy Charter School and P.S. 15K until construction of PAVE Academy Charter School’s private facility is complete.”

“This proposal was never publicly discussed. It did not go through the required legal process as mandated by the education law,” Battis insists.

Ann Forte, a DOE spokesperson, noted, “If PAVE’s private facility is not complete by the end of the 2012—2013 school year, the department will once again go before the PEP to extend the co-location arrangement. PAVE will only remain in the K015 building beyond the 2012-2013 school year if the Panel agrees to an extension.”

Battis also questions the DOE’s Educational Impact Statement for PAVE and P.S. 15, located at 71 Sullivan Street. He says, “It was devoid of any meaningful content about the actual impact on our school.”

Many parents of P.S. 15 students are opposed to the space-sharing arrangement, which was expected to end this June but was extended as PAVE works to secure its own building. (Spencer Robertson, founder and executive director of PAVE, has insisted that the charter school is eager to move to its own location.)

“It has created a division in our community,” Battis said. “It has left a very underprivileged community fighting among itself for educational resources and that itself is really shameful. There’s tension in the building, there’s tension among the staff, there’s tension among the children as children are channeled into different areas of the building. We believe that the DOE is perpetrating separate but unequal resources.”

In addition, “There are space issues. P.S. 15 services a large population of special needs children,” Battis noted. “This includes occupational therapy and various resources and interventions that more and more are being done in a haphazard manner by making use of closets, hallways, the corner of the library and other inappropriate places because they’ve lost their designated space.”

The DOE has maintained that there is enough room in the building for both schools since P.S. 15 is 66 percent utilized.