An open letter to city Schools Chancellor Cathie Black:
We are shocked and disappointed about the city Department of Education’s approach to new classroom space for PS 111 and Voice Charter School, both at 37-15 13 St. in Astoria. Not only will the department’s proposals not work easily or well, but instead of engaging the schools and the community in decisions about space, the department has ignored and disrupted a good working relationship between the two schools now co-located in one building. As a result, the daily school environment at these schools is now unsettled and parents and students are anxious about their futures. This is unacceptable and unnecessary.
As you know, PS 111 and Voice Charter School are making plans to expand. As a magnet school, PS 111 must add two grades — seventh and eighth — to its school. In addition, it must add additional classes to each grade of its elementary school. PS 111, therefore, needs more space instead of less as the department proposes. Voice Charter School wants to expand their fourth- and fifth-grades. In addition, Partnership for Children, which, with state support, has long provided critical services to at-risk children at PS 111, must continue if we expect our children to improve their academic achievement and success. Partnership also needs space at PS 111. Under the department’s proposal, it will be excluded from the school.
There are solutions which will serve both schools and their communities well. PS 111 can continue to use its current school building for its elementary and middle school grades. Voice Charter School can continue its kindergarten through third-grade classes at the PS 111 building as it does now. Instead of expanding into PS 111 classroom space, Voice Charter School can place its fourth- and fifth-grade classes at the now-vacant school at St. Rita’s, which is within walking distance of PS 111. The schools and the community support these steps to expand and improve PS 111 and Voice Charter School.
We would like to discuss with you how New York City can support PS 111 and Voice Charter School. Let’s talk before the department moves forward on its proposal to cut four classrooms from PS 111 and relocate the school into a basement which is not appropriate or adaptable to student space.
Let’s do this right.
Jimmy Van Bramer
©2011 Community News Group
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