By Patrick Donachie
Opponents of a controversial proposed co-location between a public middle school and a charter high school in Queens Village celebrated the news this week that the DOE had withdrawn the plan.
The Panel for Educational Policy originally planned to vote on the proposal to operate New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities IV in the facility currently housing Jean Nuzzi Intermediate School, also known as IS 109Q, at 213-10 92nd Ave. last Monday, but the DOE confirmed that the proposed had been withdrawn prior to the meeting.
“After extensive engagement and discussions with educators from both schools, local community members, PEP members and elected officials, we decided to withdraw the proposal at this time,” a DOE spokeswoman said. “We continue to work with the Jean Nuzzi school community and other key partners on how to best use the available space to meet the diverse needs of District 29 students and families, and also work closely with New Visions to ensure a smooth transition into a long-term site.”
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz all stood in opposition to the plan, and had expressed their concerns in a letter sent June 17 to the mayor’s office and the DOE. Katz and other elected officials released a statement Monday praising the DOE’s decision, stating that the city “has not given up on IS 109Q,” while a spokesman for New Visions said that the organization did not have a comment on the withdrawn proposal.
Grodenchik expressed appreciation that the DOE had listened to community opposition and said he disagreed with the DOE’s original assessment that IS 109Q was being under utilized.
“We didn’t believe the school was as empty as the DOE believed,” Grodenchik said. “We understand that the enrollment is going up, and it’ll be back over 1,000 students in the fall. Some good things are starting there.”
IS 109 enrolled about 972 students in its most recent school year, according to an Educational Impact Statement about the potential co-location drafted by the DOE. The charter would have added 420 to 460 high school students by the 2019-2020 school year.
Janice Berry, IS 109’s PTA president, expressed optimism that the school would raise its enrollment numbers in the next year and said she was grateful for the support of the elected officials and community members.
“I think our input into it, and the fact that we continued to fight for it had a big impact on the decision that was made,” she said. “Needless to say, we’re ecstatic.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona