School Space Wars
February 5th, 2010

Disputes in public education revolve around power, pedagogy and philosophy. In New York City, though, another factor may trump everything else: real estate.

In a city where physical space is limited and expensive, schools play musical chairs, as traditional public school vie with charters, comprehensive high schools with small themed schools, middle school with elementary schools, and colleges with secondary schools.

Thats apparently the case in the Bronx, where Bronx Community College wants space on its campus now occupied by University Heights High School. To satisfy that demand the Department of Education wants to move University Heights to the South Bronx Education Campus, a.k.a. X470.

The department’s educational impact statement on the proposal gives a sense of the daisy chain of shifts: “X470 is an existing facility with a target capacity of 1,073. It currently houses New Explorers High School, Urban Assembly Careers in Sports and Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School Before the start of the 2010-2011 school year, New Explorers and UA Careers in Sports will move from X470 to a newly constructed building, Mott Haven Campus West, The move of New Explorers and UA Careers in Sports from X470 will provide the space for UHSS to move to X470. UHSS will be co-located with Mott Haven Prep in X470.”

The department contends “The move of UHSS is not expected to have an impact on the enrollment of UHSS. ” It does not offer any documentation for this.

Writing in Huffington Post, Alan Singer of Hofstra University foresees major ramifications for generally well-regarded University Heights. He writes, that the South Bronx Education Campus is “one of the poorest, most unsafe communities in New York City.”

“My prediction is that if this plan goes through, students who would have selected UHHS will choose to go elsewhere and four years from now we will find it on the failing schools list and targeted for reorganization. But it is not the students, teachers, or administrators that will fail, it is the Bloomberg/Klein Department of Education,” Singer wrote.

Last month, I met two students from University Heights at a rally against school closures. Donna Roa and Nicole Guess are both first-year students at the school and said their experience so far had been great. Roa praised a program for pregnant students, which, she said, many other schools do not have.

“My older brother went there and its close to my home,” said Guess. “It’s a good environment. I don’t have to worry about being robbed like I would in some other places.”

Both girls expressed anxiety about where they would spend the remaining years of high school. One echoing the other Guess and Roa said, “They’re trying to kick us out of the building.”

A meeting to discuss the changes will be held, at the South Bronx Campus on March 11 at 6 p.m. As Singer writes, “Expect the judges to sit there in silence — there will be no question and answer period.” (How did the Department of Education ever decide that was a good way to conduct a public hearing?)

Then the Panel on Educational Policy — the same group that did the mayor’s bidding on school closings last month — must approve the move at its March 22 meeting on Staten Island. Its members also will almost certainly not respond to University Height parents, studens and teachers willing to travel 2 hours and 24 minutes trip by public transportation to make their opinions known.

By on February 5, 2010, 6:07 pm
In category: Education | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “School Space Wars”

  1. Annie Perloff Says:
    August 28th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Hi, Thanks alot for your post. You’ve helped me a lot.

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