Success Academy Queens scholars and parents claimed victory Thursday, after months of advocating for their children’s right to use public school space.
More than 20 fourth-grade Success Academy scholars testified at the Panel for Education Policy’s (PEP) online meeting held Wednesday night before the panel voted to approve two temporary middle school co-locations proposed by the Department of Education.
“We need to prioritize students,” said Isaac Carmignani, a member of PEP. “These are all our students.”
Success Academy Far Rockaway Middle School was approved for a two-year co-location with M.S. 53 and Village Academy in Building Q053, where Success Academy Far Rockaway is currently located.
Meanwhile, Success Academy Hollis Middle School will open in August in Building Q238, which houses I.S. 238 Susan B. Anthony Middle School.
“This is a win for our Queens kids and families, but it is also a larger win for parents’ right to choose a school that’s best for their child,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy. “Our families are public school parents and they have the right to be educated in under-utilized public buildings. It is a simple matter of social justice.”
Success Academy Queens parents have been actively advocating for middle school space over the past 10 months. With current fifth- and-sixth graders from Success Academy Springfield Gardens and Success Academy Rosedale already doubled up in the one existing Queens middle school, there was no room for the 200 expected graduates for 2020-21.
In September, approximately 4,000 parents, scholars and teachers gathered in Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica for the ‘Kids Over Politics’ rally. Collectively, they sent over 2,000 emails to Mayor Bill de Blasio, met with Queens elected officials to secure their support, held press conferences on the steps of City Hall, and conducted public hearings on the co-location proposals.
In November, 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.”
After PEP’s approval of the two temporary middle school co-locations, Giselle Valiente-Sukh, parent of Dylan Sukh, a fourth-grader at Success Academy in Far Rockaway, said it’s a relief to know that her son has a school to attend in August.
“Finally, it really is ‘kids over politics,’” said Valiente-Sukh. “I’m grateful to all the Success Academy parents who advocated on behalf of these scholars.”
Sukh, who joined his mother and advocated for a school by speaking not only at the PEP’s meeting, but also at the February meeting and two public hearings on the co-location proposal, expressed joy.
“I’m happy I will have a middle school next year. I didn’t want to leave Success Academy,” Sukh said.
The two co-locations are temporary, which means the city must still provide permanent space. While relieved to have a place for their children next year, parents vowed to stay the course until the city fulfilled its legal obligation to find permanent space for the students.