The Department of Education has decided not to move Cambria Heights Academy in Hollis into IS 59 in Springfield Gardens.
Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the DOE, said the decision was made last week after the agency discovered it had extra funds in its School Construction Authority and leasing budgets, and was also motivated by public outcry against the move.
“We feel this plan makes sense for the school,” Thomas said Thursday. “We always take into consideration concerns from the community.”
Parents from both schools were worried about overcrowding and concerned that mixing teenage students with intermediate school pupils could lead to bullying and other issues.
Thomas said the DOE is hammering out details with the owner of the building to sign a long-term lease, which he said, is generally 10 years for a school.
The newly discovered city funding will help cover rent plus go toward adding some amenities to the school, which is geared toward technology, Thomas said, though he could not say what those would be.
He also could not say how much the DOE surplus is, or how how much would go toward CHA, which presently has 154 students and serves grades nine and 10. IS 59 has 669 students and serves grades six through eight.
CHA PTA Secretary Garfield Clark, who said he is “extremely relieved” the school will stay put, said he heard it will be getting a new science lab and library.
He added that if the co-location had been approved, he planned to pull his son, Malik, who is 10th grade, out of CHA and send him to private school.
“They spent so much money on technology that to move the school made no sense,” Clark said.
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, who was vehement is his stand that CHA not change locations, said he is “ecstatic” about the DOE’s decision, calling it a “win-win,” situation.
“The community made some logical arguments and the DOE recognized that the best thing was to keep them at that location, and use the capital plan to improve the property,” Fedkowskyj said.
The city first had proposed moving CHA into JHS 72 in Rochdale Village, but decided on IS 59 after a backlash from students, parents and educators. It was supposed to utilize the space being vacated by Eagle Academy, which outgrew the room allocated for it.
“If it couldn’t work with 150 junior high school boys, how was it going to work with three times the amount of high school boys and girls from Cambria Heights Academy?” asked Annette Brown, PTA secretary at IS 59.
She added that the school administration is trying to incorporate a gifted and talented program into IS 59 to occupy the small amount of free space it has left, figuring that would take it off the DOE’s radar for future co-location plans.
The Eagle Academy now plans to move into the Allen Christian School building. Allen Christian is closing down.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who was vocal in his opposition to moving CHA into another school, said Friday that he is happy the agency did what he believes is in the best interest of the students.
“Parents came to me concerned and upset that they were going to lose an opportunity to continue what was becoming a great school,” Comrie said, adding, “The school is focused on the concept of learning through technology and I think it’s a good concept that needs its own singular space.”