Community leaders say there's not enough space and class size will increase
A proposal by the Department of Education to co-locate an early college program in the same building as the Neighborhood University High School on the Lower East Side has been met with staunch resistance from community leaders and parents.
The proposal would add 75-85 students per year starting in the 2014-15 school year and continuing to the 2019-20 school year, eventually adding around 500 new students to the high school building. The DOE estimates the building would serve between 700 and 800 students by the 2019-20 school year. The early college program is for students interested in careers in the advertising industry and would give them an opportunity to earn associate's degrees at no cost to them or their families.
The DOE said its estimate of students in the building once the program is fully implemented in 2019-20 is overstated as those who elect to continue on in the program's "grades thirteen and fourteen" will likely receive instruction at a site other than the NUHS building.
Upon learning of the proposal, City Council member Margaret Chin organized a rally on Aug. 27 with students and parents of NUHS. She said her office will be holding rallies before the DOE's public hearing on Oct. 7 as well as attending the hearing itself.
"We all think it's a bad idea," said Chin in an interview. "There's no room in that school. The school has no gym. The lobby is being used as a gym, as a cafeteria and as an auditorium."
Lisa Donlan, a longtime member of Community Education Council 1, said there's only two sets of bathrooms in the school, one elevator, and only one science lab.
"The NUHS building is a hundred years old and was designed as an elementary school," said Donlan. "It is not conducive to holding a high school, let alone two."
Both Chin and Donlan described narrow hallways and classrooms that are smaller than regular high school classrooms and unable to accommodate the standard 35 students.
The DOE settled on NUHS as a site for the new program - dubbed 01M203 - after identifying the school as "underutilized," meaning that the school could fit more students according to the DOE's formula comparing the number of classrooms to students.
Donlan said she tried telling the DOE that these were not normal-sized classrooms, to no avail. "The first thing I told [the DOE] is you have a problem with space," said Donlon. However, the DOE, which never returned a request for comment for this story, is going ahead with the proposal.
Stanley Ng, the lower Manhattan representative for the Citywide Council on High School, said in an email he is "very, very unhappy" with the plan. "I am in total agreement that [NUHS] is way too small for the co-location [of] a second high school."
The DOE said NUHS will serve approximately 275 students in the 2013-14 school year and that it's target capacity for the school is 694 students.
Donlan said NUHS recognizes it's under-enrolled in the DOE's eyes, but part of that is because it has a large amount of special needs students.
"[The DOE] is just looking at the formula, they're just looking at numbers of rooms," Chin said. "They assume that every classroom is full size and that you can put 35 kids in there, but these are not full-sized classrooms."