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Packed Brooklyn school to get more crowded

Parent, staff objections don’t stop panel from squeezing charter into PS 308 building

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, dominated by mayoral appointees, voted 8 to 4 at its March 1 meeting at Brooklyn Technical HS to co-locate a new charter school in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s already-cramped PS 308, infuriating the school’s parents, students and teachers.

Supported by the UFT, the school community briefly rallied before the meeting and held a press conference at which parents spoke passionately against the proposed co-location of the Teaching Firms of America charter school inside their school building, which they said is already too crowded for its current student population.

“The building structurally cannot handle it,” said Mary Jackson, the grandmother and guardian of a 5th-grader at the school. “The DOE has come into the building and they agreed with us, but when they went back to their offices they for some reason forgot what they had agreed to.”

UFT Secretary Michael Mendel blasted the DOE for its “mismanagement” of the situation at PS 308 as well as at PS 114, also in Brooklyn, which the DOE had targeted for closing until teachers and parents brought to light the shocking extent of its neglect of the school.

In both cases, Mendel said the DOE was blinded by ideology. “It’s time for someone to say to the DOE, ‘Forget your ideology. Look at what’s going on in schools,’” he said.

Inside the meeting, PS 308 parents, teachers and students, as well as local politicians, alternately pleaded with the panel to find a different location for the charter school and condemned it for making a decision they said will harm children and, according to UFT industrial hygienist Ed Olmsted, put their safety at risk.

One student, 11-year-old Fiana Cromarty, broke into tears as she described conditions in the school’s cafeteria, which holds just 222 people in a school with 719 students, forcing lunch to be served to some students as early as 10:15 a.m.

“You can always build another school for the charter school with the money that you have,” she said to the panel. “We don’t have space.”

UFT District 16 Representative Ronald Mailman was outraged by the vote.

“The mayoral appointees on the PEP have no heart,” Mailman said. “Children were crying, parents were upset and they didn’t listen to them. They made a mistake choosing this school.”

The panel also approved co-locations at several other schools across the city. It was supposed to have voted on closing two schools, JHS 231 and PS 30, both in Queens, but those schools were removed from the agenda at the last minute and will be addressed by the panel at later dates.

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