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Queens Chronicle

DOE plans 11th-hour school co-locations

At least three in Queens that will be affected have been named

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:17 am, Thu Jul 25, 2013.

The city Department of Education is expected to announce this summer that they will take an unprecedented step and propose a series of co-locations and enrollment reductions at schools all across the city, several sources say.

Such plans are usually proposed in the spring, but doing it in the fall will enable them to be approved before the Bloomberg administration leaves office.

Though the list of schools in Queens that will be affected is not public, at least two of the proposals showed up on District 27’s Community Education Council meeting Monday.

In one proposal, the DOE will seek to reduce enrollment by more than 400 students at MS 226 in South Ozone Park, where it will then seek to add a high school. A new middle school was approved for co-location there in March.

The other proposal was to co-locate an elementary charter school inside August Martin High School in South Jamaica.

Both schools would begin admitting students for the 2014-15 school year.

“How’s that going to work?” asked Alexandria Siler, a member of CEC 27.

Joshua Hirschman, CEC 27’s new president, said he had been told by the DOE that it would be able to segregate the elementary school students from the high school kids.

“They told me there would be a separate entrance,” he said.

But Hirschman also noted that the DOE’s Division of Portfolio Planning was scheduled to attend the meeting to brief the CEC on the proposals, but did not show.

“I hope to have them here next month,” Hirschman said.

Multiple sources say many more schools in the borough are being eyed for co-locations. One other that has become public is the proposal to co-locate a new high school at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village. Elected officials and community leaders from eastern and northeastern Queens rallied to fight the proposal Monday.

The move by the DOE to enact co-locations at the October meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy — the rule-making body of the DOE — is unprecedented, according to Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the PEP. Typically the DOE proposes changes in the spring after meeting with parents and school leadership during the first half of the school year, but by the spring, there will be a new mayor whose policies may be different from the current administration’s.

“The DOE can do whatever they want when it comes to changes in utilization of school buildings as long as they follow the law, however it doesn’t make it right,” Fedkowskyj said in an email. “Our school communities deserve ample notice while school is in session and if that means the process be delayed until the next administration then so be it. It hasn’t been made clear to me why these proposals cannot be voted on in March. Forcing an agenda without proper vetting and community input is of paramount concern to me and it shouldn’t happen.”

The public hearings for all the co-locations were tentatively scheduled for late August, but Fedkowskyj said the time is bad because many parents are away on vacation before school starts.

He has been pressuring the DOE to hold the hearings in September, which would give the PEP ample time to vote by late October. DOE regulations state a vote must take place 45 days after a public hearing.

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