Citing lack of need, CB2’s request for new high school denied by city Department of Education

longwoodprep_entrance
Longwood Preparatory Academy is one of the several schools housed in the former Holcombe Rucker High School at 965 Longwood Ave.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Community Board 2 (CB2) wants a new high school constructed — or a pre-existing one expanded — in its Hunts Point and Longwood neighborhoods. But the city’s Department of Education insists there isn’t an enrollment-based need within School District 8, which encompasses CB2’s geographical footprint.  

CB2’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 was denied by the city’s Office of Management and Budget, which deferred to the Department of Education’s position: “(the) community board is located in a borough without identified high school seat need.”

Raphael Acevedo, CB2 district manager, said the request was made in order to prepare for what he predicts will be a seating shortage in the upcoming years. Acevedo said he heard from the School Construction Authority (SCA) that an influx of affordable housing developments in the neighborhood will result in a need for 500 additional high school seats.

“I know we are getting an influx of affordable housing being built,” Acevedo said. “I want to be proactive in requesting that we get additional public schools to accommodate all these new families.”

But Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson for SCA, said the organization constructs new schools based on the seating needs of school districts, not community boards. Public schools in CB2 fall within School District 8, which encompasses other neighborhoods, stretching further east through Soundview all the way to the Locust Point area. In total, there are approximately 18 high schools located within the District 8 geographic footprint. However, several high schools have also closed since 2015 within that school district, according to data from the state Education Department.

Ortiz said that SCA anticipates opening a 500-seat addition, in 2024, at PS 138 at 2060 Lafayette Ave. in Castle Hill to accommodate increasing student population projections — but Castle Hill lies within CB9.

Acevedo insists that a new high school within CB2 is “due.” He doesn’t want the incoming influx of students in his community to need to travel long distances to attend school.

“I don’t want kids from Hunts Point and Longwood having to travel to Soundview or Castle Hill to attend school,” Acevedo said. “Why (in) other districts, other neighborhoods, they can walk to school? Why aren’t we afforded that luxury?”

Acevedo says there are plenty of new charter schools in CB2, but he doesn’t believe they are a solution because they do not guarantee seating to local students and instead, by law, utilize a randomized admissions lottery system for placing students if demand outpaces available seating.  

“We are getting charter schools, but there is no telling if local residents will be accepted because charter schools are a lottery,” Acevedo said. 

In a statement emailed to the Bronx Times, the Department of Education (DOE) said the SCA takes “extensive measures” to create accurate projections about future seating and subsequent needs.

“SCA looks at current enrollment as well as housing and birth data from various city agency partners,” the DOE statement read.

An emailed statement from the SCA added that the organization updates seating projections annually and accounts for new housing developments. “To the extent new housing creates a need for additional school seats, our annual projections would capture those changes,” the statement said. 

In response to a question from the Bronx Times about CB2’s request for a new high school, the DOE sent an emailed a statement about plans for a new “accelerated learning” high school in the South Bronx by fall 2024. The statement also said the DOE will engage with families to “identify the potential for further expansion of high-quality options throughout the city based on community interest.”

Acevedo said that the new “accelerated learning” high school could be helpful if it lands in CB2 and admits CB2 students, but noted that the South Bronx also includes CB1 and School District 7.

“Everywhere else in the borough they are getting expansions and new schools but we haven’t got one in quite some time,” Acevedo said. “Right now, we are probably not at capacity at (CB2), but in two or three years from now, once we start getting this influx of apartments, we will be at capacity. I want to be proactive.”

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