Pols oppose public schools co-location with charter

By Patrick Donachie

Elected officials expressed their reservations about a potential co-location at a Queens Village middle school in a letter sent to city Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and Vanessa Leung, the chairwoman of the Panel for Educational Policy.

The lawmakers who signed the letter included Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the head of the city Council’s Education Committee. In the letter, they wrote that they were concerned that the proposed co-location of Intermediate School 109 at 213-10 92 Ave. with New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV would have poor consequences for IS 109.

“The objections of 1,200-plus parents and community members who have signed the IS l09 Parent Teacher Association’s petition must be taken into account when evaluating this proposal,” the signees wrote. “Their concerns about safety, security and adverse effects on the students’ learning experience are absolutely valid and must not be ignored.”

The legislators said that they felt that co-location decisions were often considered to be a form of surrender on the part of the Department of Education toward the school that will be co-located, asserting that such actions were often “disruptive to school communities, creating unnecessary tensions and challenges to learning environments for the respective students and educators.”

Additionally, the officials also have concerns about the school’s construction, noting that it was not built to accommodate a high school such as the proposed charter school. They asserted that the school’s construction would make it impossible to separate the two schools during dismissals, making a co-location an unattractive possibility.

The DOE sometimes places two or more schools together in one building or campus, which they term co-location. The DOE claims that it tries to use under-utilized spaces to create more space in school facilities.

The DOE claims that IS 109 only utilizes 73 percent of its full space capacity, and with the new charter school, the enrollment would be pushed to 105-110 percent by the 2019-2020 school year. The Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on the proposed co-location during its next meeting on May 18. The move was originally scheduled for a vote April 16, but it was postponed for a month. Janice Berry, the PTA president for IS 109 and an opponent of the co-location, said she was hopeful that the PEP’s decision might be a favorable one.

“We’re pretty optimistic about it because they did give us more time, and we’ve gotten a lot more of the local politicians involved now,” she said. “109 is not equipped to become a high school.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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