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Squeezed out

Public schools feel the pressure when charters move in

At IS 145 in the Bronx, where students are stuck in the same classroom all day eAt IS 145 in the Bronx, where students are stuck in the same classroom all day ever since a charter school moved into the building, teachers Yolanda Goss (center) and Craig Moss (right) prepare to set up for a lesson as teacher Augustine Nwalu moves his cart to his next class.

At the four high schools on the Brandeis campus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the sports teams now practice in the hallway because the Success Academy elementary charter school in the building gets sole use of the gym after school, says Jeff Picca, the chapter leader at the Global Learning Collaborative HS.

At IS 59 in Springfield Gardens, Queens, only teachers with medical accommodations may use the elevators while the staff, parents and students from the co-located charter school have free access to them, according to Chapter Leader Hallie Burgess-Wilson.

And after a charter school in the building vacuumed up space, MS 224 in East Harlem lost the school library that was once filled with its students doing homework or using the computers during lunch, according to Chapter Leader Francis Handibode.

These are three of the scores of tales of the harm done to neighborhood public schools when charter schools moved into their buildings. This year, the city’s charter school lobby is pushing Albany to double the number of charter school seats and squeeze 50 new charter schools into public-school buildings in New York City over the next two years.

“Charter advocates spin the tale that you can shoehorn charter schools into public school buildings without any repercussions for the children and staff already in those buildings,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It’s far from the truth.”

At IS 145 in the Bronx, hundreds of middle school students are stuck sitting in the same classroom at the same desk all day ever since a Success Academy charter school moved into the Concourse Village school building that IS 145 already shared with two other city schools — all three of them struggling.

The IS 145 teachers now travel from class to class all day, using valuable teaching time every period to set up their lessons and then pack up to move in time for the next class.

“This is what happens when you lose 17-plus classrooms,” said Chapter Leader Tanneka Clark-Holmes. “Our students have no chance to learn how to transition to high school or how to become independent young adults. It’s not fair to them or to our teachers.”

The school, in which 189 of the 290 students are English language learners, is now slated for closure.

“Our chance at renewal disappeared with the arrival of the charter school, and now we face being shut down in June,” Clark-Holmes said.

The arrival of a charter school at PS 65 in Mott Haven created what Assistant Principal Danielle Presto calls education by “art and science on a cart.” Like so many other co-located schools, oversize classes can’t be addressed by creating another section because there simply is no classroom space.

“I was troubled,” Presto said, when a student, reacting to the shrinking space, complained, “I feel like I’m being backed into a corner.” Many of the school’s students, she explained, come from homeless shelters and double-occupancy apartments where their lives are already compromised by overcrowding.

At PS 65, occupational and physical therapists also have lost their specially equipped rooms and have been shunted into inappropriate quarters, Presto said.

At IS 237 in Flushing, Queens, Chapter Leader Roseanne Kiviat worries about “an accident waiting to happen” in the overcrowded hallways and staircases in the building it shares with an expanding charter school.

“We are a community school with a large special education and English as a second language population that grows with the Flushing community we serve,” Kiviat said. “Kids with walkers, teachers with carts and a swollen enrollment crowd the staircases and vie for the elevators trying to get to class on time in this four-story building.”

Patrick McLoughlin, the chapter leader at Union Square Academy for Health Sciences HS, said the five public high schools that share space on the Washington Irving campus are being crowded by an elementary charter school that inexorably adds a grade each year.

In a sentiment shared by more and more school communities, McLoughlin said, “We’re fighting for space, but it seems they’re winning.”

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