Despite neighborhood outcry when it was first announced, less than 20 people attended a hearing on April 8 at August Martin High School in South Jamaica, Queens, for a Department of Education (DOE) meeting about making space for another public school.
The DOE’s original proposed plan, which was first made last year by the Bloomberg administration, was to co-locate a Success Academy elementary-level charter school in the building, taking over open space in the August Martin school. Upon further consideration, the department concluded that the proposal to co-locate in the building would not be implemented, because “it would be more appropriate to co-locate an additional high school that serves same grade levels,” a report from the DOE said.
If the co-location is approved, a science-and-technology-based school will start in September with 105 to 115 students in their freshman year, adding one grade level every year until reaching a full grade span of 420 students in ninth through twelfth by 2017.
“You want to increase science programs? That’s great,” said Anyah Walton, president of the August Martin PTA. “But give them to the students who are already here.”
The DOE claimed students at August Martin currently use only 53 percent of the building, leaving “sufficient space” for the new proposed public school. Walton, though, argued that there wasn’t enough space for a new school.
August Martin opened in 1971 and is named after the first African American commercial airline pilot. It already houses Voyages Prep, a South Queens transfer school that currently serves 150 students who are 16 years of age and older, and an Alternate Learning Center, which provides an educational setting for students in grades nine through 12 who are on superintendent’s suspension for up to one year.
At the hearing, teachers and faculty complained that the proposed school will prevent students from having full access to resources and would result in a reduction of classrooms and programs.
Lonai Mosley, a teacher in the school’s communications program, said the proposal could affect the communications program which is currently under a three million dollar renovation.
Councilman Ruben Wills of District 28 (D-Jamaica), who was recently arrested for pocketing $33 thousand from a non-profit he runs, singled out Mayor de Blasio and said he was displeased with how the mayor’s administration was handling the co-location issue.
“He’s just not doing what he promised during his campaign, and people in this community had came out for him and have him elected,” said Wills.
Wills, who was somewhat disappointed with the turnout on April 8, pointed out that the low turnout should not be viewed as lack of opposition on the issue.
“I think it’s a sign that after the last 12 years, giving the benefit of the doubt to the new administration, that people are discouraged, that the Department of Education will just do what it wants,” he said.
The city’s Panel on Educational Policy will vote on the proposed plan on May 29 at 6 p.m. at Murry Bergtraum High School at 411 Pearl St. in Manhattan.