Angry parents gave a resounding “no” to city officials who they’re afraid want to fill 300 empty seats in Marine Park JHS with a new, autonomous high school, claiming that the move would scare off potential students — but the city says no such plan exists.
“There is, at this point, no full-fledged proposal to site a high school in the Marine Park building,” said Department of Education director of high school planning Sara Kaufman, during the Dec. 2 meeting of the District 22 Community Education Council. “All I can say is to ask you to trust.”
But the crowd gathered at PS 312 on Avenue T at E. 71st Street would have none of it.
“Trust!?” many called out. “We don’t trust.”
Parents have been organizing opposition to the idea since it was broached by city officials at last month’s meeting. Now, they want to make sure it doesn’t happen.
“It’s disconcerting that there is this kind of proposal out there,” said Al Lama, who is looking for a middle school to send his son and claimed he would discount Marine Park if such a plan was put in place.
Instead, parents say they support the addition of a program for middle school students with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome at the school.
Currently, neighborhood kids with those conditions are bused Downtown to attend the borough’s only so-called Nest program, at MS 447 on Dean Street — a round trip that can take up to three hours.
“My child goes to bed around 9 pm and gets up around 5 am,” said Sharon Cohen, “If he went to his zoned school, he would walk two blocks.”
And the log trip can also affect the kids social lives.
“They have no time for extracurricular activities,” said Mardie Sheiken. “They have no time for neighborhood friendships.”
The need for the middle school program is acute, added Marine Park Principal Debra Garofalo. Nearby elementary schools, she said, have Nest programs whose students will soon be ready for junior high school.
“Over the next few years, there are 10 classes that we know of that will need middle school seats,” she said. “Don’t these children and parents deserve seats within their community?”
The city says it will take the parents concerns into consideration before deciding what to do with the vacant seats.