Future still cloudy for Sunset Park Head Start

January 3, 2012 Denise Romano
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The building that once housed the Sunset Park Early ChildhoodDevelopment Center – which served over 400 children, many withspecial needs, until it closed its doors on December 16 — willremain vacant until September, 2014.

Frank Thomas, a spokesperson for the Department of Education(DOE), said that the DOE will be renovating the building, locatedat 4222 Fourth Avenue, which it leases from the Brooklyn Diocese.He squashed all rumors that a charter school would be openedthere.

We have no idea what it’s going to be, he told this newspaper.The school is being renovated and we are not planning on having aschool there until 2014. We have no plans to put a charter schoolthere more than anything else.

Yesenia Gonzalez, whose four-year-old son Jonathan attended theHead Start Program, said the news was no surprise to her.

That is crazy, but I am not surprised because they never gaveparents a straight answer as to what is going to happen, Gonzalezsaid.

According to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, whichran the Head Start program at St. Michael’s Church, the school isbeing relocated to a newly renovated space at Our Lady of PerpetualHelp (OLPH). However, that space will not be available until June2012.

In February, students will have use of five classrooms at OLPH,but parents say not all students are guaranteed placement.

In the meantime, students were offered home schooling for onehour a week, but many, like Gonzalez, refused. What is one hourgoing to do for us? she said.

Her son is still getting some help, but less than he had gottenwhen the center was open. At that time, Gonzalez’s son receivedSpecial Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) help five hours a weekand speech therapy nine hours a week. Now, his SEIT makes tripstwice a week but the other three days he is with a babysitterbasically doing nothing.

This is not right, Gonzalez said.

The location is not the only issue that has flummoxed parents.Not only is OLPH nearly a mile away from the original school, butparents and activists want to know why the center was closed afterit got $1.2 million in grants from the Robin Hood Foundation andAdministration for Child Services (ACS) to renovate classrooms.

It makes absolutely no sense that you would close down thiscenter after they added five new classrooms, David Galarza ofOccupy Sunset Park, said during a rally held the day that thecenter shut down.

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Diocese did not respond torepeated requests for comment.

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