Performing arts school in Brooklyn protests loss of classrooms to charter school
A performing arts upper school with no space for the performing arts – that’s what parents and supporters say will happen to Susan McKinney Secondary School of the Arts if a new Success Academy charter school moves in as planned by the city.
The controversial charter school network, led by former Council Member Eva Moskowitz, wants to take over space that students need for music, art, and dance classes, parents say. High school students have five or more periods of art classes a week, and the school boasts a full dance studio, theater and art wing.
Parents of students receiving special education help from an “inclusion” program based in the building (P369) also worry that the program may be diminished or eliminated.
Susan McKinney, which serves grades 6 – 12, is located in Fort Greene near the Brooklyn Navy Yard in District 13. Along with the special education program P369, the building also houses the District 13 School Food Field Office and the community-based organization, Partnerships with Kids.
The city’s Department of Education (DOE) says the McKinney building is designed to hold 1,035 students, but the current school serves only 470 students, making the building less than 50 percent utilized. Once Success Academy 5 grows to its fullest, likely more than 500 students, the building may reach 102 percent capacity, DOE says.
New York City Councilmember Letitia James said in a statement that operating at or above capacity would compromise education at McKinney and eliminate state mandated resource rooms for children who attend P369 and students with Individualized Education Plans (‘IEP’).
“In addition, the co-location will diminish the educational mandate of Susan McKinney Secondary School of the Arts ability to offer classes in drama, chorus, dance, and visual arts to students in grades 6 to 12,” she said.
While DOE doesn’t address the extra space needs of McKinney’s art classes in its environmental review, it did say the co-location of Success Academy wouldn’t affect McKinney’s ability to continue to offer extracurricular activities. “However, the co-location may change the way those programs are configured. For example, some activities may need to share classroom space or the scheduling of these activities may change as a result of greater demands on the available space during or after school hours.”
“The expansion of charter schools has led to higher levels of inequities, and a higher concentration of high-needs students in district schools,” Jonathan Westin, organizing director of New York Communities for Change said in a statement. “At the same time, Success Academy Charters run by former Council Member Eva Moskowitz have taken increased amounts of space from the district schools that educate the neediest students, including in many cases libraries, art rooms, music rooms and classrooms.”
The Success Academy network has been authorized by SUNY to operate six new public elementary charter schools starting in 2013-2014, including the one proposed for Susan McKinney. A public hearing is scheduled for Oct 31, and the Mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will vote on the proposal on Nov. 8.