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Queens Chronicle

DOE plans 11th-hour school co-locations

Panel for Educational Policy to vote on proposals at the end of October

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:14 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

With only a few months left in Mayor Bloomberg’s term, the city Department of Education is seeking to approve at least three more co-locations and extend one in borough schools at the end of October.

Two of the co-locations are for new Success Academy Charter School branches in Southeast Queens — one serving kindergarten through fourth grade in the August Martin High School building, the other at IS 59 in Springfield Gardens. The third new co-location is for a new district elementary school in Jamaica serving grades K through five in the same building as PS 40 on Union Hall Street.

The Panel for Educational Policy, the DOE’s policy-making arm, will also vote on an extension of the co-location of the Corona Arts and Sciences Academy at the Elmhurst Educational Complex and add an eighth grade to the school, which currently serves grades six and seven. The school, also called MS 311, was due to move out into its own building it would share with a special education school at 97-11 44 Ave. in Corona in September 2015. However, construction on that building has been delayed and the DOE does not expect the move to happen until September 2016.

The Corona Arts and Sciences Academy currently shares its campus with three other high schools — Voyages Prep, Pan American High School and Civic Leadership Academy — and one grammar school. The DOE says the complex is operating at 78 percent capacity and could handle the additional students being brought into the new eighth grade. The department estimates that in the final year of MS 311’s co-location — 2015-16 — the building will be at 84 to 94 percent capacity.

The three Southeast Queens co-location plans are also controversial. In the Success Academy Charter School co-location at August Martin, children as young as kindergarten age will be attending the same campus as 17-year-olds. The building is also home to a transfer high school, Voyages Prep South, that opened this month.

The 1S 59 co-location comes as the school is also hosting the fourth and fifth grade of PS 176, whose Cambria Heights building is currently being expanded. The PS 176 co-location is expected to continue through the 2015-16 school year. The DOE says despite that, the school building at 132-55 Ridgedale St. is underutilized and there is sufficient space for new students. The K through five school is expected to serve 810 students by 2022.

The co-location of the new elementary school at PS 40 in Jamiaca could lead to the school being overpopulated, according to the DOE’s public notice on the co-location. Currently, the school operates at 62 percent capacity, but with the new planned co-location, the building could be at 102 percent capacity by the 2019-20 school year. The DOE said that schools at over 100 percent capacity are often utilized in a different way, including using other room space in the building for classrooms.

“Although a utilization rate in excess of 100 percent may suggest that a building will be overutilized or overcrowded in a given year, this rate does not account for the fact that rooms may be programmed for more efficient or different uses than the standard assumptions in the utilization calculation,” the notice says.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the PEP, blasted the proposals, saying it is too late to make the changes now.

“The release of these proposals for Queens four months before the mayor leaves office is absurd,” he said. “[Bloomberg] had 12 years, it’s now time to move on with a new and fresh vision for our public schools. These proposals will handcuff a new administration from doing what they believe is right for the city.”

Public hearings on the co-locations will be held in early October, beginning Oct. 1 for the Corona Arts and Science Academy co-location at 6 p.m. at the Elmhurst Educational Complex, 45-10 94 St. in Elmhurst. The co-location for the Success Academy Charter School at August Martin will be Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at the campus, at 156-10 Baisley Blvd. The public hearings for the PS 40 and IS 59 co-locations are scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. at 109-20 Union Hall St. and 132-55 Ridgedale St., respectively.

The PEP is expected to vote on the proposals on Oct. 30. Fedkowskyj said such a move is abnormal for the DOE.

“Co-locations in general require significant planning, which I believe is being side-stepped right now in order to rush through these proposals for an October vote,” he said. “This business takes place in March when a significant amount of community outreach and planning takes place during the first 6 months of a school year. It’s a shame that these proposals are being forced through a lame duck administration when they aren’t desired by our school communities.”

Fedkowskyj said it’s possible that more co-locations could be proposed for the Oct. 30 meeting in the next few weeks.

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