Updated — The city has scrapped a charter school co-location plan that nearly made it to a final vote, after significant pushback from the other school involved and members of the Panel for Educational Policy.
The Department of Education had proposed putting Academic Leadership Charter School on the top floor of P.S. 277’s five-story Bronx building back in January, when Chancellor Fariña asked the panel to delay voting on that proposal and three others. While those three were approved last week, the city now plans to consider the co-location of a much smaller District 75 program at P.S. 277 instead — a move that illustrates the de Blasio administration’s efforts to make the process of co-locating schools less contentious.
The new plan comes after “significant dialogue with parents, the Panel for Educational Policy, the leadership from the affected schools and other members of the community,” spokesman Jason Fink said.
The earlier P.S. 277 co-location plan never sat well with parents and staff at that school, who testified at a public hearing in January that it would mean giving the school’s technology room, which had just cost $250,000 to set up. They also disputed the calculations that the city used to determine that there would be enough room to move 175 fifth through seventh graders from Academic Leadership Charter School to join P.S. 277’s nearly 500 kindergarten through fifth graders.
After that hearing, department officials defended the plan, saying the city had conducted “unprecedented outreach.” But the concerns didn’t die down, and Robert Powell, the panel’s Bronx borough president appointee, was encouraging other panel members to take a tour of the school just hours before the meeting, pointing out the school’s narrow hallways and raising questions about the proposal.
“This was a case where the DOE was responsive to our concerns,” said Laura Zingmond, a panel member appointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The District 75 school in the new proposal will accommodate between 42 and 84 students with autism and intellectual disabilities, depending on student-teacher ratios set by its students’ Individualized Education Programs, said Fink, who described Academic Leadership as “a valuable partner” and “an asset to the South Bronx community.”
Academic Leadership Charter School Principal Leena Varghese said the school is working with the Department of Education on finding a co-located space.