Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Questions about the proposed new co-located high school on the Lower East Side by Lisa Donlan

The DoE’s Office of Portfolio Planning has proposed co-locating a new Career and Technical High School/ Early College model school in the University Neighborhood High School building on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan.
The proposal is for fewer than 90 students on a grade to enter this new CTE school for advertising careers, and to stay enrolled for six years to obtain a high school diploma and an Associates degree from Borough of Manhattan Community College - for free.
While parents, community members and students who have heard of the proposal are generally supportive of the model, they are struggling to understand why the DoE needs to create a whole new school to offer this program to local students, and how the UNHS facilities will be able to accommodate all of the needs of the students who are expected to tally over 800 at scale.
The UNHS building was constructed in 1902 as an elementary school, with very narrow hallways, stairwells and classrooms. The building has no gymnasium, making do with a classroom converted to a fitness center and the pillared lobby for recess and gym. The lobby also doubles as the cafeteria and assembly area, making it the city’s only “gymacafalobatorium”!
There is currently only one science laboratory, and no library, though thanks to City Council discretionary funds, one is scheduled to open this year.
There are only four student bathrooms, on two of the five floors, and the cafeteria (like many from the era) is not equipped to cook school food- only warm frozen or pre-prepared meals.
UNHS has been thriving under new leadership since 2010, seeing its school progress report grade rise from a D to just two points shy of an A in the last four years. A thriving college office, in house- CBO Grand Street Settlement (that offers after school programming and more), as well as pull out space for academic intervention, support and  therapy  have helped this high needs school succeed, despite the fact that almost one fourth of the students have disabilities and more than one fourth are classified as English Language Learners.
Like all of the Educational Impact Statements on co-locations issued by DoE since required by law in 2009, this one says there will be “no impact”. We are told class sizes will not rise, all services and supports will continue and enrollment will not be capped.
At a recent CEC meeting, the Office of Portfolio Management was asked to please present the plans from the Office of Space Planning showing how, at scale, the two schools will grow and thrive, as promised.  Both schools communities deserve to understand exactly how the two institutions will fit together over time.
The local hearing at 6 PM on October 7th at the school at 200 Monroe St would be the perfect time and place for DOE to try to show that this proposal is good for ALL students, and that we are not all just robbing Peter to make a new school for Paul, or asking principals to duke it down the road in some bizarre kind of cage fighting, as many co-locations have done.
The proposal will be voted on at the PEP on October 15, more information here.  Written comments can be sent to D01Proposals@schools.nyc.gov; or phoned to 212-374-3466.
To read more about the community concerns, please see the Lo-Down here and here;and DNA info here.  -- Lisa Donlan

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