The city Department of Education (DOE) on Monday, Jan. 23, withdrew two proposals to co-locate Success Academy charter elementary schools at M.S. 72 in Rochdale and the Q420 Springfield Gardens Educational Complex (SGEC) in southeast Queens, after the plan had drawn fierce opposition from the community.
SGEC is home to three high schools: Excelsior Preparatory High School, George Washington Carver High School for the Sciences and Queens Preparatory Academy. The building also houses a combined middle and high school, the Preparatory Academy for Writers. The second building houses three schools, including M.S. 72, the Catherine and Count Basie Middle School, in Rochdale Village.
After hearing from community members throughout public hearings that the proposals would create significant challenges for the new schools and existing co-located schools, NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks said the Success Academy proposals for M.S. 72 in District 28 and Q420 in District 29 were removed from this week’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) agenda.
“Community input is a critical part of making co-locations successful for families and educators. When we propose co-locations, we gather community input through formal joint public hearings as well as additional community meetings, building walkthroughs, meetings with CECs and school leadership teams, and engagement with other stakeholders throughout the process,” Banks said. “We are committed to continue to work with Success Academies to find suitable facilities for their new schools, as we are required to do by law.”
Banks added that being responsive to families, staff and community input is a “core pillar of this administration,” and that they “welcome all voices to take part in these discussions.”
“We fully intend to live up to our obligations under state law, while working collaboratively with all parties,” Banks said.
Success Academy Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz responded to the city’s decision to rescind the proposal.
“Thousands of families whose children are in desperate need of better educational options have applied to these schools. We will not let the Adams administration abandon them,” Moskowitz said.
Joint public hearings took place on Dec. 19 for the M.S. 72 co-location proposal and Dec. 20 for the Q420 SGEC proposal. Over 500 students walked out of Springfield Gardens High School and proceeded to M.S. 72 to protest and stand in solidarity against the proposed Success Academy co-location campuses.
An online petition was also launched by the Springfield Campus PTA requesting the DOE and politicians to provide funding for programs that will allow its schools to grow and become more competitive.
“This will accelerate the talent and gifts of our scholars and afford them the American promise that they are educated and taught the skills and means to break barriers and achieve the American dream,” the Springfield Campus PTA wrote.
On Jan. 24, the Springfield Campus PTA posted an update regarding the proposal.
“We are writing to give our sincerest appreciation for your support in our fight against the SA co-location at our campus. This cancellation makes a tremendous difference in our children’s education and their access to programs; we could not have achieved it without your support and dedication. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!” the Springfield Campus PTA wrote.
Meanwhile, southeast Queens lawmakers lauded the DOE’s decision to withdraw its proposal.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who represents District 28 in Queens, said that placing an additional charter school in M.S. 72 would have undermined access to the shared facilities, including the gymnasium, cafeteria, bathrooms and outdoor recreational space for the existing schools.
“Two of those schools received federal magnet grants that facilitate their increased enrollment over the next five years, and this co-location would have hindered the schools’ growth and abilities to provide vital programs and resources to students,” Adams said. “Students at Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72, Redwood Middle School and Public School 993 deserve more access to facilities and support, not less.”
Since serving as education chair for Community Board 12 more than a decade ago, Adams said she has prioritized the needs of students and families in southeast Queens, who have faced decades of underinvestment.
“I have historically opposed school co-locations that set school communities back and negatively impact the education of our students, and I emphatically reject this proposal as well,” Adams said. “I stand with the M.S. 72 School Leadership Team, Queens Community Board 12, Community Education Council (CEC) District 28, and the students, parents and educators in southeast Queens who all opposed this co-location plan. I am heartened that their voices were heard by the Department of Education, and I urge the city to search for other locations that would not result in negative impacts for our existing schools and their students.”
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, who represents District 29, said that they must continue to convey the changes that are needed for the community to strive in the right direction.
“Let me be crystal clear that my issues were with the co-location and never with parents that have the right to choose which schools their children attend,” Hyndman said.
Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers congratulated the parents, students and advocates who organized and lifted their voice against the proposal.
“The Springfield Gardens H.S. campus is growing and thriving and we will continue to protect the interests of our students’ educational experience,” Brooks-Powers said.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said that students across southeast Queens have been forced to endure years of systemic disinvestment in their schools, punctuated by a seemingly endless cycle of co-locations that further devalues the education its children receive.
“Throughout this process, it was clear that co-locating Success Academy with M.S. 72 and SGEC would present significant and entirely avoidable challenges for both campuses, negatively impacting the education of our public school students,” Richards said. “Our unrelenting focus must be on reaffirming our promise to improve public education, especially in historically underserved communities like southeast Queens.”
Richards has allocated more than $22 million to the borough’s public schools over his first two years in office, including $900,000 in funding across M.S. 72 and SGEC alone.
The borough president says he is “deeply committed to working with all our partners in government and education to further uplift these students, their families and their educators — all of whom are deserving of our support.”