**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MAY 21, 2020**
Liz Baker, 646-904-4200
Ann Powell, 646-894-6407
Queens Parents Prevail: PEP Approves Two Co-locations in Southeast Queens
Success Academy Far Rockaway fourth grader, Dylan Sukh, testifying at the February PEP meeting.
New York, NY — Leave it to the students. Last night, more than 20 fourth-grade Success Academy scholars testified at the online Panel for Education Policy meeting before the panel voted on the two temporary middle school co-locations proposed by the Department of Education. Their parents and teachers had to stay up past the kids’ bedtime to be able to give their two minutes of testimony, but the wait was worth it.
At 1 a.m. on Thursday morning, the PEP voted to approve both sites. Success Academy Queens parents emerged victorious after months of advocating for their children’s right to use public school space. SA Far Rockaway Middle School was approved as a two-year co-location with MS 53 and Village Academy in Building Q053, where SA Far Rockaway is currently located. SA Hollis Middle School will open in August in Building Q238, which houses IS 238 Susan B. Anthony Middle School.
“This is a win for our Queens kids and families, but it is also a larger win for parents’ right to choose a school that’s best for their child,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy. “Our families are public school parents and they have the right to be educated in under-utilized public buildings. It is a simple matter of social justice.”
“We need to prioritize students,” said Isaac Carmignani, member of the Panel for Education Policy, after the vote. “These are all our students.”
Success Academy Queens parents have been actively advocating for middle school space over the past 10 months when it became clear before the start of the 2019-20 school year that the DOE was not going to honor its promise to provide a middle school for graduates of the four SA elementary schools. With current fifth and sixth graders from SA Springfield Gardens and SA Rosedale already doubled up in the one existing Queens middle school, there was no room for the 200 expected graduates for 2020-21.
Despite the cost to taxpayers and growing number of underutilized seats in school buildings across the city, the de Blasio administration has resisted co-locating charter school students in public school buildings, citing community opposition. Approximately half of all public schools in Community School Districts 27 and 29, where these two schools are located, are co-located. The opposition to co-location is directed only at charter school students, a sentiment that frustrates their parents.
“Finally, it really is ‘kids over politics,’” said Giselle Valiente-Sukh, mom to Dylan Sukh. “I’m grateful to all the Success Academy parents who advocated on behalf of these scholars. It is such a relief to know that my son has a school to attend in August.”
The two co-locations are temporary, which means the city must still provide permanent space. While relieved to have a place for their children next year, parents vowed to stay the course until the city fulfilled its legal obligation to find permanent space for these students.
Success Academy Queens parents have been actively advocating since July. In September, 4,000 parents, scholars, and teachers gathered in Roy Wilkins Park for the Kids Over Politics rally. Collectively, they sent over 2,000 emails to Mayor de Blasio; met with Queens elected officials to secure their support; collected 13,000 signatures on a petition; held press conferences on the steps of City Hall; and spoke at PEP meetings, CEC meetings, a Queens Borough President candidate forum, and three public hearings on the co-location proposals — all in an attempt to get the mayor to be accountable to their children.
“I’m happy I will have a middle school next year. I didn’t want to leave Success Academy,” said Dylan Sukh, fourth grader at Success Academy Far Rockaway, who joined his mom and advocated for a school by speaking not only at last night’s PEP meeting but also the February meeting and two public hearings on the co-location proposal.
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.