The city has scrapped plans to place three new Success Academy schools in buildings already housing other public schools — a practice known as co-location.
The proposals were withdrawn a day before the Panel for Educational Policy was set to vote on the first two: a plan to add a Success Academy elementary school to the Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72 building in Rochdale Village, which is home to two middle schools and a District 75 special education school, and a separate plan to add another Success Academy elementary school to the Springfield Gardens Education Campus that is home to four high schools.
What You Need To Know
- The city has scrapped plans to place three new Success Academy schools in buildings already housing other public schools
- The move comes after pushback from elected officials and leaders of the schools being asked to share space
- Officials at Success had argued the opposition was political, and that the schools had plenty of room to share
A third proposal — to add a Success Academy elementary school to a Bronx public school building — was set to be heard on Wednesday but was also withdrawn.
In a statement provided to NY1 on Friday, Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz responded to the city's decision.
"Thousands of families whose children are in desperate need of better educational options have applied to these schools," Moskowitz wrote. "We will not let the Adams Administration abandon them.”
Schools Chancellor David Banks says the Department of Education is listening to community feedback that officials heard during public hearings, community meetings, building visits and other conversations — and "hearing from community members throughout this entire process that the proposals would create significant challenges for the new schools and the existing co-located schools."
The plan had drawn fierce opposition not just from the teachers union — a frequent foe of charters, which are publicly funded, but privately run and rarely unionized — but from a slew of elected officials, community members and the leaders of the schools that were asked to share space.
At M.S. 72 in Rochdale Village, Principal Ativia Sandusky said the co-location could cause the school to lose space for popular programs like its drum line.
And other M.S. 72 staff noted sharing common space like gyms or cafeterias is already hard with three schools in the building. P.S. 993, the school serving students with disabilites, has been hosting gym classes in an old girls’ locker room.
“I do lunch duty. We have to do a whole lunch for the seventh grade within 20 minutes, because then we have to be out so that the other middle school in the building can come in,” teacher Guy Ramsbottom said.
But in the proposal to co-locate Success in their building, the education department had calculated that there was room to spare. According to its data, only 46% of the building is being used, and there are over 700 empty seats.
Sandusky, the principal, says that doesn’t take into account the situation on the ground.
"It's easy to look at numbers on paper, but when you're living and breathing it every single day, it's totally different," Sandusky said.
The school was recently awarded a federal magnet grant that requires them to grow by 5% each year. And Sandusky has launched a new focus on performing arts, which requires dedicated, and often large, spaces like music rooms and a dance studio.
"We're already struggling with space. I have a grant to have a hydroponic lab built in this building. There's no empty classroom," Sandusky said.
But speaking to NY1 before the proposals were pulled, Moskowitz dismissed those worries as scare tactics meant to keep Success out.
"I've done this 49 times, Jill, like this is not my first rodeo," Moskowitz told NY1. "I've done this, and it's the same argument every single time. There's 700 seats. Is the building laid out perfectly? I can't say it’s laid out perfectly. But I know there's 700 seats."
Moskowitz, who has been deeply critical of district public schools, said the arguments against co-location were political and fueled by the teachers union. Still, she said once co-locations are actually in place, there is little or no tension between her schools and the traditional public schools she has shared space with elsewhere.
Moskowitz said she needed to open the new schools to meet demand for more seats. Alecia Hinds, who has three children attending Success Academy schools, recalled being on a waiting list when her oldest applied.
"We had to go to our local zoned public school and in that time I saw a little bit of regression — she wasn't excited to learn — fast forward to when we started to go to Success, I saw her start to bloom again," Hinds said.
Success families and staff tout the network's longer school days and school year, the availability of activities like chess, plus high test scores.
Banks said he would work with Success to find new locations for the three schools they want to open in Queens and the Bronx.
"We are committed to continue to work with Success Academies to find suitable facilities for their new schools, as we are required to do by law. Being responsive to families, staff and community input is a core pillar of this administration, and we welcome all voices to take part in these discussions," Banks said.
State law requires the city to either provide the schools space in a public building, or assist in paying their rent elsewhere. But Moskowitz believes the fight over sharing space is bigger than just her schools.
"Co-location is just such an important public policy," Moskowitz said. "This is about of course Success, but it's also about the policy. Do we really want a city where you leave 40% of the seats empty? They were expensive to build, those buildings."