The ongoing battle centered around the city’s Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to co-locate charter schools into existing public schools reached a fever pitch last Tuesday at P.S. 308 on Quincy Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
At a packed DOE meeting in the school’s auditorium, local parents along with teachers and elected officials weighed in on the city’s controversial decision to co-locate the Teaching Firms of America Charter at the school starting August 22.
“Instead of putting in another school, why don’t they build up our school,” said local parent Mary Jackson, whose children attended the school. “I’m not against charter schools. They have their place – just not in this building.”
Jackson recalled when the school was at its maximum requirement of 1200 students, there were trailers located outside of the school to accommodate all the students.
According to the DOE plan, Teaching Firms of America will start out next year with an enrollment of 114 students from kindergarten to first grade, and gradually increase their size and grade range. Currently, the school has 646 students enrolled from kindergarten to 8th grade, and thus, theoretically, could accommodate both schools.
The plan also calls for some reshuffling of classrooms and for Teaching Firms of America to share common spaces such as the auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria at different scheduled times.
But parents and teachers are concerned that the separate but equal sharing of the school might not be so equal.
This issue is also part and parcel of the recent lawsuit the NAACP and United Federation of Teachers brought against the DOE for co-locating charter schools in public schools.
One teacher, for example, was also outraged that under the plan public school kindergarten students would move to the top floor of the building along with the eighth-graders to accommodate charter school students.
City Councilman Al Vann said that if the DOE had engaged in conversations with the local community, parents and teachers in the first place they would have known co-location was the wrong decision.
The DOE is setting up a situation between the students of the two schools that was adversarial given the way in which the DOE has proceeded with this process and that at the end of the day it is the children who will suffer the consequences, he said.
P.S./M.S. 308 PTA President Patricia Etheah passionately urged parents to speak so that their voice could be heard.
“We can’t be moved! Don’t give in! Where are you parents? We are here to make a difference,” Etheah said.
Prior to the meeting, the DOE told the audience the hearing was being filmed so that parents’ feedback could be available for review.
It may also possibly be used at the June 21 court date involving the NAACP/UFT lawsuit.