Protests Continue Over H.S.’s Relocation; School’s Fate May Be Decided at March Meeting

March 5, 2010

SCHOOL PROTEST

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS PROTESTING BRONX COMMUNITY COLLEGE'S DECISION (PHOTO: R. THOMAS)

By REBECCA THOMAS

Undeterred by the gathering blizzard, more than 40 University Heights Secondary School students rallied on Thursday, Feb. 25 to protest their school’s planned transfer from the Bronx Community College campus.

The students held signs and chanted, “BCC don’t move me,” during the hour-long demonstration on the sidewalk opposite the University Avenue entrance to BCC.

Thursday’s protest was the most recent organized by the students since they learned in December that the college wants the school’s building back at the end of the school year, so it can use the additional classroom space.

The Department of Education has proposed a new site for the school on the South Bronx High School Campus, which currently houses three other schools – a solution both students and teachers find unsatisfactory.

“I don’t want to go,” said 11th grader Maria Candelier. “It’s a bad area. I feel safe here and not there.” Many students echoed her fear that the new campus is in a dangerous neighborhood. They also said sharing it with other schools would destroy the community spirit of UHSS.

The proposed site is also far from where many UHSS students live. It’s in the southeast Bronx on Saint Ann’s Avenue near East 156th Street, several miles from the college.

“Most of the kids live in my district,” said local Assemblyman Nelson Castro in a phone interview. “That means they have to take public transport to get to the new school.” Castro added that he thought there were other sites closer to the current campus that could be retrofitted to house the school in its own building.

One of these sites has been suggested to the DOE by Councilman Cabrera. It is an empty, recently constructed, building on East 179th Street on the corner of Jerome Avenue. The DOE has said it will consider the location, according to Cabrera’s office.

“He’s [Cabrera] very passionate about putting on pressure to get the DOE to use a viable site,” said Zellnor Myrie, Cabrera’s press director.

In addition to petitioning for the support of elected representatives, the students have planned further protests, including one on March 4, as the Mount Hope Monitor went to press.

They will also be there in force at the DOE’s public hearings on March 9 and March 11. The meetings will be held on the BCC campus and the South Bronx High School campus respectively. Beforehand, students plan to write letters to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein criticizing the move. The final decision on whether the school will relocate to the South Bronx will be made by the Panel for Educational Policy on March 23. (The meeting has been rescheduled from the 22nd.)

While UHSS students are determined to see the school stay where it, not everyone is behind them. Andisha Steele, a 19-year-old BCC student who passed the protest on her way home, talked about the effect overcrowding was having on her college. She believes a new home should be found for the school.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing that students are fighting for their school,” Steele said. “At the same time, I think they should be fighting for a space of their own, instead of a small piece of someone else’s.”

Related articles:
Local High School Could Move to the South Bronx
Opinion: BCC Must Rethink Decision to Evict High School

School Community and Local Politicians Criticize Plans to Relocate High School
BCC to Expel University Heights Secondary School

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