After 3-Year Wait, Queens Parent Get 1-Year Middle School — Success Academy Rejects City’s Proposal
November 21, 2019
**For Immediate Release November 20, 2019**
AFTER THREE-YEAR WAIT, QUEENS PARENTS GET ONE-YEAR MIDDLE SCHOOL — SUCCESS ACADEMY REJECTS CITY’S PROPOSAL
Building Would Cheat Students of Standard Space Allocation; Space Enough for Only One Year
New York, NY — Today, Success Academy parents rejected Mayor de Blasio’s proposal of a small, aging Catholic school as inadequate and not comparable to Department of Education facilities. The 70-year-old building will require a complete gut renovation to replace electrical and mechanicals, repair water damage, and restore all interiors and lighting — costing several millions of dollars. The building, which previously housed students of Our Lady’s Catholic Academy until 2016, falls significantly short of providing a permanent middle school for the projected 600 Success Academy Queens students in grades 5-8 at full enrollment. In a year, Success will outgrow the space, which accommodates only 330 students.
According to New York State Education Department guidelines, building capacity should be calculated as 100 square feet per pupil, which means the 33,000-square-foot Our Lady’s Catholic Academy can accommodate 330 students, not the 500 estimated by city officials. With only a multipurpose room, the school has neither a gym nor an auditorium, both of which are critical for middle school sports, theater, and assemblies.
By standards that apply to all public school buildings, the space the DOE has proposed as a permanent Success Academy middle school will work for only one year. Parents have been waiting three years for what the administration promised would be a permanent site.
“There are six public school buildings with hundreds of empty seats and basic facilities like gyms and auditoriums,” said Sandrian Campbell, parent of two Queens SA scholars. “The mayor is segregating our children in separate and unequal space.”
While 100 square feet per pupil is the state’s standard allocation, the city has recently built a number of new school buildings that average 135 square feet per pupil. According to DOE data, four underutilized buildings in southeast Queens currently have an average of 241 square feet per child. Moving 600 Success children into any one of these buildings would still guarantee every student — district and charter — well above the 100-square-foot standard, not the 66 square feet the DOE would force on Success students. Two other buildings could accommodate between 400 and 500 additional students. (See detailed analysis of available space in Queens school buildings here.)
“This space — about half of what any other student in New York City gets — is not acceptable” said Gisselle Valiente-Sukh, SA Far Rockaway parent of a fourth grader. “This building will work for only a year and then we’d have to start this whole process all over again. This is unreasonable.”
Parents of the 2,200 Success students in Queens have been pleading with the city for months. Since July, parents have sent hundreds of emails, met with Queens elected officials, and secured nearly 13,000 signatures on a petition — all in an attempt to get the mayor to be accountable to their children. Over the past two weeks, parents have made 625 phone calls and sent 2,500 emails to local elected officials, many of whom have pledged public support for Success Academy and the affected families.
“‘Equity and excellence for all’ means all — all public school children, district and charter,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy. “These children deserve equitable space.”
By state law, the city must offer space that is “reasonable, appropriate and comparable and in the community school district to be served by the charter school and otherwise in reasonable proximity.”
In recent years Mayor de Blasio has sharply reduced co-location approvals for charter schools. By refusing to make underutilized space available, the administration forces charter schools into private space at a significant expense to taxpayers. As noted in a Manhattan Institute report on underutilized school buildings, New York City “pays nearly $52 million per year for charters to access private space, and that cost could easily double over the next few years if the city continues to reject a high percentage of charter colocation requests.” Another report released by the Citizens Budget Commission estimated that school construction expenses are now approaching $122,000 per seat, and that the city could save $2.4 billion in new construction costs while also reducing overcrowding by wisely using existing space.
The transportation options for this location do not serve the majority of families. While it’s a 10-minute bus ride or a 15-minute walk from SA South Jamaica, travel from the other three SA locations is problematic. It’s an hour and a half from SA Far Rockaway and about an hour from Rosedale and Springfield Gardens, with multiple bus transfers involved.
Over the next four years, Success Academy’s middle school enrollment will reach 1,000 students in Queens. The current middle school co-located with IS 59 has capacity for only 360 students, which means roughly 600 students need seats.
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 45 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 18,000 students, primarily children of color from low-income households in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are students of color, 16% have disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for about 4,000 open seats for the 2019-20 academic year.
For more information about Success Academy, go to successacademies.org.