Department of Education provides temporary public school space for southeast Queens Success Academy students

Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

The Department of Education is finally granting two temporary co-locations for 227 fourth-grade Success Academy scholars in southeast Queens entering middle school next year. 

After three years of relentless advocacy from Success Academy, the DOE has agreed to offer a two-year co-location for Success Academy Far Rockaway students at their current building, M.S. 53. The department will also propose a one-year co-location for additional students from I.S. 238 Susan B. Anthony Academy in Hollis. 

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the co-located sites during its April 22 meeting.

“I fought tooth and nail for a school for my son, and this morning I got to tell him that he won’t have to leave Success Academy next year,” said parent Giselle Valiente-Sukh, whose son attends Success Academy Far Rockaway. “Finally, it really is ‘kids over politics.’ I’m grateful to all the Success Academy parents who advocated on behalf of these scholars — they deserve nothing less than what is guaranteed to students at district schools.” 

The decision comes after thousands of Success Academy parents, teachers and scholars led a fierce campaign demanding Mayor Bill de Blasio to secure public school seats. Without additional seats, about 227 Success Academy students would have been relocated to their zoned school. 

In November 2019, Success Academy parents had rejected de Blasio’s proposal of a small, aging Catholic school deeming it “inadequate and not comparable to Department of Education facilities.” 

The building, which the city claimed could house 500 students, has about half the square footage that district school students are provided, lacks a gym or auditorium, and would require millions of dollars of repairs to be usable, according to Success Academy. According to church officials, the previous occupant, Our Lady’s Catholic Academy, enrolled about 250 students. Success scholars would outgrow the space in a year.

Approximately 91 Success Academy parents with hand-painted signs of “Kids Over Politics” and “Time is Running Out” attended a Queens Town Hall on March 2 to press Schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza, for a permanent middle school.  

“We are going to continue to engage with Success Academy on the long-term options,” Carranza told parents at the meeting. “We’re also ready to work with them to secure a long-term plan for the Rockaways, and we expect a proposal later this week.” 

Since then, no long-term plan has been made, according to Success Academy. While relieved to have a place for their children next year, parents vowed to stay the course until the city fulfilled its legal obligation.

“I am relieved and filled with so much gratitude that our kids will not be forced out of their schools,” said Jamaal Salah, a father of a SA Far Rockaway second grader. “This is a huge win for all our families that did not know where to turn to or if their child would even have a school next year. It has been a long process, but I’m thankful that we were able to get through to the mayor.” 

“However, the fight still continues! In two years, my daughter and hundreds of others won’t have a middle school based on the current conditions — we can’t let the mayor off the hook until we have a long-term, permanent solution,” Salah added. 

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