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City to rent parochial school building for Chelsea middle school

In its third attempt to find a home for a Chelsea middle school, the city is proposing to rent a former Catholic school.

Starting next year, the city will rent Saint Michael’s Academy to house the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, Department of Education officials announced today. The city is moving the Clinton School from its current home at P.S. 11, which is rapidly expanding. The Clinton School is due to move into a newly constructed building when it is finished in 2014.

But the city has proposed and abandoned two previous plans to move Clinton into temporary space since January. The most recent proposal, which would have moved the school into an East Side building currently shared by the American Sign Language and English Lower and Secondary Schools, sparked fierce protests from parents at all the affected schools. Critics of the plan, including the United Federation of Teachers, also voiced concern that adding 300 middle school students to the building would create fire hazards. On the eve of the citywide school board’s vote on the plan, the city backtracked, saying it would explore other options.

Under the plan released today, Clinton would be the only school operating in Saint Michael’s, whose all-girls Catholic school program is closing at the end of this school year. The school would have room to grow in the temporary space, although it will lose outdoor sports space. Students will also have to be taken back to the P.S. 11 building to receive sex education courses because the space is owned by the Catholic Church.

City spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld called the plan “a winner for everyone,” and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said that the deal was “a good example of how the public input process can work when DOE is responsive to school communities.”

Susan Kramer, the leader of the Clinton School’s parent committee on relocation, said that she was happy the city had backed away from the plan to move the school into the ASL school’s building. But she cautioned that parents have not yet had a chance to tour the St. Michael’s building and thus haven’t judged whether it’s a suitable space.

Here’s the city’s new statement on the impact of moving the Clinton School:

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