If it's February, it must mean that the DOE is scurrying to find spaces for all of the new schools it plans to open in September. In addition to the 27 high schools and transfer schools opening in the fall, some number of elementary, middle, and charter schools will also open, and they all need space. Many of the city's schools are officially under capacity, but those schools have been able to make headway in reducing class size and improving performance, and they don't want to compromise their gains. (Official school capacities assume that classes will have the largest legally permitted number of students.)
This year, in response to complaints in the past, the DOE is giving school communities greater warning before placing new schools inside them. As a result, parents afraid of age-mixing, overcrowding, and other tensions have more information earlier — and they're just as angry as they were last year. I don't envy the DOE's Office of Portfolio Development right now.
Here are a few space-sharing issues I've come across this year. I'm sure I'm leaving some out — have you heard of more?
- When the DOE announced that it was planning to place a new high school devoted to the film industry in Long Island City's IS 204, parents and students there protested. It's still not clear where the school will be located.
- In Red Hook, Brooklyn, the DOE would like to house a new charter school in PS 15. The widow of Patrick Daly, the PS 15 principal who was killed in 1993 in gang crossfire while searching for a truant student, says he would have opposed the charter school.
- Without any available space in the North Bronx, where it has been open — and housed in trailers — for the last two years, the Young Women's Leadership School is being moved into IS 162 in the South Bronx.
- Kingsborough Early College School, previously located on the community college's campus, which lacked many amenities, will be moving to the Lafayette building; according to the Daily News, some parents won't be allowing their kids to move along with the school.
- When the principal of PS 21 in Queens received a letter that said the DOE was considering putting another school in the building, parents were angry, saying that sharing space would diminish the quality of their excellent school.
- At PS 84 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where last year middle-class parents reported being made to feel unwelcome when they asked for new programs, the DOE proposed creating a new elementary school. Hispanic parents protested, saying the DOE was trying to create a system of "separate but equal" schools in the building. The DOE now says no new school will open in PS 84 this fall.