Comrie vows to keep fighting IS 59 changes

By Ivan Pereira

The city may have made its final decision on placing a new school within the walls of a Springfield Gardens middle school, but City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said he and parents will continue to fight the agency’s plans.

The councilman said he has encouraged parents of children who attend IS 59 to seek legal and other measures against the ruling issued March 23 by the city Panel for Educational Policy, which approved the plan to place the Eagle Academy inside the middle school at 132-55 Ridgedale St.

The city Department of Education has said the school’s 600-seat vacancy would be large enough to handle Eagle’s 500 all-boy student population enrolled in sixth-through-12th classes in the fall, but Comrie said the agency should have reconsidered other sites.

“We’ve been saying all along that the space is not sufficient for both schools to grow. It is necessary that they find another location for Eagle,” he said.

David Banks, president of the Eagle Academy foundation, said he was set to meet with IS 59’s principal and parent groups to discuss the move. Although he said he was open to looking at locations where his school could operate on its own, Banks said he was satisfied with the Springfield Gardens school because the DOE had told them the facilities were adequate for his students.

“We certainly understand that IS 59 wasn’t looking to share space,” he said. “But the DOE made a determination that there was space available.”

Comrie said the Queens-appointed member of the panel said during the vote that IS 59 could be a temporary location for Eagle Academy, which could be moved into another building in the future.

The councilman said he would continue to push for it to be placed in one of three closed-down parochial schools: St. Gerard Majella at 188-04 91st Ave. in Hollis, the Dominican Commercial High School at 161-06 89th Ave. in Jamaica and the Holy Trinity School at 90-20 191st St.

Eagle Academy, which has already established two schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx, is a public school run in conjunction with the 100 black men nonprofit organization. The student body is made up of at-risk minority boys.

The panel initially voted on the Queens proposal in February, but inclement weather caused three members to be absent. Six of the 13 members, all appointed by the mayor, voted on placing Eagle Academy in IS 59 while panel representatives chosen by the Queens, Manhattan and Bronx borough presidents rejected the proposal.

One of the mayor’s appointees abstained from that vote.

Because there was not a full count of panel members, the city decided to reschedule the vote.

Last week the panel took up the vote again, this time with all members accounted for. The vote was not unanimous with the Manhattan and Brooklyn borough presidents abstaining from the vote, according to a DOE representative.

Before the panel voted last week, several parents and elected officials sent letters to the city schools chancellor urging him to reconsider the placement.

The DOE stood by its decision, stating it was made in the best interests of the community.

“We carefully considered all of the alternatives, and when you look at the needs of this area of Queens and the available space in the [IS] 59 building, this was the best option for Eagle Academy three,” DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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