After battling a move by an Icahn charter high school to move into an east Bronx middle school campus, parents, community and elected leaders were cheering after Icahn officials withdrew their application with the city Department of Education.
Opposition erupted after the DOE announced in September that it had selected an as-yet-unnamed Icahn Charter high school to share space in District 11’s Junior High School 144’s building in Allerton.
Among other complaints, parents feared for the safety of their younger children with high school students.
The 6th through 8th grade middle school at 2545 Gunther Ave. is in the DOE’s turnaround program and showing promising signs. The newly created Pelham Gardens Middle School recently opened there.
Senator Jeff Klein, while supportive of Icahn opening another high school, opposed its location there.
“The Icahn Charter Schools have been a great boost for school choice in our community,” said Klein. “But from the start, I believed that JHS 144 was the wrong site for this co-location.”
Klein said he will work with Icahn to find another, more suitable location.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca said “Having a high school there would have caused overcrowding and adversely affected the education of the students already there.
The age mix, along with the sharing of facilities such as bathrooms between younger, more vulnerable elementary school aged students and high schoolers, was of great concern to CEC 11 president Pamela Johnson.
Also, the middle school children already in the building would not get seats in the new high school, she noted, since charter schools can pull from any area.
An experiment with placing trailers in back of the school for high school students also did not work at the campus, she said.
“The DOE was not listening at all to the community,” said Johnson.
Diane Norris, chairwoman of Community Board 11’s Education, Youth and Culture Committee, also opposed the plan because the charter school when fully phased into the building after several years would cause overcrowding.
“At the end of the proposal, it showed that there would be overcrowding of at least 105% [of capacity] once the co-location was complete,” she said.
Norris said credit should also go to Community Education Council 11, as well as Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Councilman Andy King, along with others.
While the community wants new schools, she said the DOE is not working with the community but just telling the community what it is going to do.
Al D’Angelo, vice-president of the Morris Park Community Association, as well as an educator, said that the mix of different-aged students in the same school building would just not work. He also chastised the DOE for not working with the community.
“The DOE are supposed to be educators, and they should know about education,” he said. “They don’t give a damn. From the dealings I have had with them, I don’t think they see children as the priority.”
He also said Jeremy Kabinoff , JHS 144’s relatively new principal, should be given the chance to complete the DOE mandated “turnaround” program.
Johnson praised Kabinoff and the students and school community for raising JHS 144’s overall grade on its 2012-13 school progress report to a B.
D’Angleo has also been trying to convince the DOE officials to build a new middle school f Morris Park. For her part, Johnson would like to see a third middle school in the Gunther Avenue building.