By Michèle De Meglio
Midwood High School’s state-of-the-art annex is about to open, but the public will not be invited inside. When the annex was being designed, the community agreed to support the project once informed that the new library would be open to area residents after school hours and on weekends. But Midwood’s new principal says that’s no longer going to happen. Fred Maley, senior manager for the School Construction Authority (SCA), said he told Principal David Cohen, “This was clearly promised [by the former principal]. His response to me was, ‘I never made that promise and I don’t have the staff’” to run the library after school hours. Local residents were surprised by the change of tune. “There should be some sort of give-back” to the community, said Florence Valentino, co-chair of Community Board 14’s Education, Libraries and Cultural Affairs Committee. “I think it’s an affront that one person in charge of the school can withdraw a promise that was made to the community.” The SCA apparently agrees. “It was a commitment made by the school,” Maley said. “Frankly, it doesn’t look good for the School Construction Authority.” “I can’t do anything,” Maley explained. “We build it and they staff it.” The city Department of Education (DOE) will not interfere with Cohen’s decision. According to a DOE spokesperson, “Whether or not to open the school after hours and on weekends to community members is a decision we leave up to the principals. It’s at their own discretion.” Cohen could not be reached for comment by presstime. William Richardson, a member of Community Board 14, noted that city schools recently lost money when the mayor slashed $180 million from the DOE’s budget. Another $324 million will be cut next year. “In terms of getting principals to do different things, budgets have been cut,” Richardson said. “I understand that but it would be nice to hold them to their word,” Valentino asserted. Maley said the construction of the annex hasn’t gone exactly as planned for Cohen either. As the annex will have a new library and science labs, the library and labs in Midwood’s main building will be converted to classrooms. Cohen hoped a black box theater would be built but will instead receive two rooms for drama classes. This is also a result of budget cuts, Maley said. “We’ve been asked to reduce our capital improvement projects…to the tune of $500 million,” he explained. “How can I tell another school we can’t fix your leaky roof because we want to give Midwood a black box theater?” The annex will be completed in May and will open in September. After the annex is complete, the SCA will build a pedestrian bridge connecting the building to Midwood, located at 2839 Bedford Avenue.