‘This space is not acceptable’: Success Academy rejects mayor’s proposed middle school location

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Success Academy (SA) has rejected Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education’s proposed location for a middle school in South Jamaica (125-18 Rockaway Blvd.), after touring what they called a “small” and “aging” building.

“This space — about half of what any other student in New York City gets — is not acceptable” Gisselle Valiente-Sukh, a Far Rockaway parent of an SA fourth grader, said. “This building will work for only a year and then we’d have to start this whole process all over again. This is unreasonable.”

The 70-year-old building, which used to house Our Lady’s Catholic Academy students until 2016, will require a complete renovation in order to fix electrical and water damage that would cost “several millions of dollars,” according to SA.

De Blasio and the DOE announced at a Nov. 13 town hall meeting that the location would be “permanent” and can house up to “500 students.”

But SA said that the 33,000-square-feet building can only accommodate “330 students,” according to the building capacity guidelines of New York State Education Department. SA already plans to enroll 227 students for the next school year, and will add more grades to the middle school, which starts at fourth grade, after each year.

Additionally, the building only has a multipurpose room, with no gym or auditorium, according to SA.

“There are six public school buildings with hundreds of empty seats and basic facilities like gyms and auditoriums,” Sandrian Campbell, parent of two Queens SA scholars, said.

SA also believes the transportation to and from the school’s location doesn’t serve most of their families.

“While it’s a 10-minute bus ride or a 15-minute walk from SA South Jamaica, travel from the other three SA locations is problematic,” SA stated. “It’s an hour and a half from SA Far Rockaway and about an hour from Rosedale and Springfield Gardens, with multiple bus transfers involved.”

SA has maintained that there are several other buildings in south Jamaica that could accommodate their students. They created a report that lists four “underutilized” schools in particular that could house up to 600 SA students, including Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72 and Mathematics, Science Research, And Technology Magnet High School.

State law requires the city to offer charter school space that is “reasonable, appropriate and comparable and in the community school district to be served by the charter school and otherwise in reasonable proximity” as well as help pay their rent when they lease private space.

SA has asked for the mayor’s help in finding a permanent home for their middle school in southeast Queens for more than two years now. Students, their parents and educators have held protests on the steps of City Hall and at Roy Wilkins Park in recent months to ask the mayor to keep his promise.

“It’s a shame that Success Academy is declining such a great educational space, which is so hard to come by in Queens,” Miranda Barbot, press secretary of the DOE, told QNS. “We’ll make sure someone takes advantage of the opportunity to use this building to serve public school students. We’ll discuss next steps with Success Academy.”

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