City Approves Local High School’s Move to the South Bronx; Students Slam the Decision, Vow to Fight On

April 3, 2010

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UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS SECONDARY SCHOOL WILL HAVE TO LEAVE ITS CURRENT BUILDING (PICTURED) AT THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR (FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA THOMAS)

By JAMES FERGUSSON

The city’s Panel for Educational Policy has voted to approve the Department of Education’s recommendation that University Heights Secondary School’s move to the South Bronx High School in Morrisania.

The school has to relinquish its current building on Bronx Community College’s campus at end the school year because the college needs the extra classroom space.

Many students and teachers are furious with the DOE for not doing more to stop the eviction, and for then suggesting a move to the South Bronx.

Nine Panel board members voted in favor of the relocation at a meeting in Staten Island on March 23, and only two against, according to Margie Feinberg, a Department of Education spokesperson.

The Panel’s decision is final, unless the DOE decides to revoke it (which happens very rarely), or BCC announces it doesn’t need the building after all.

Despite this, students have vowed to fight on. And they have taken heart from the New York State Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn 19 school closures ordered by the DOE.

“University Heights High School students, we don’t give up,” said Astrid Barreras, 17, a senior. “We know what the Department of Education is doing is an injustice.”

Astrid and more than 200 of her peers made the trip to Staten Island that night to state their case: namely, that it makes no sense breaking up a high-performing school, and that South Bronx High School is miles from most students’ homes.

But they failed to convince the Panel. “We could tell they came to Staten Island with their mind set,” Astrid said.

If the school has to move, students would rather see it take over an empty four-story building on Jerome Avenue at East 179th Street, which is just seven or eight blocks from BCC.

This is the location favored by Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the developer, Frank DeLeonardis, who has been looking for a tenant.

DeLeonardis says his 56,000 square-foot building would be perfect for a school because it’s close to public transportation, and is “unfinished” inside, which would allow the DOE to customize it, at a cost of approximately $5.6 million. He’d charge the department $2 million a year in rent – a reasonable price, he said.

Greg Faulkner, Fernando Cabrera’s chief-of-staff, said DeLeonardis’ building is a “viable alternative,” but that the DOE hasn’t been responsive.

“Every time we solve a problem they create another challenge,” Faulkner added. The building is on the DOE’s radar screen, but now they’re saying they don’t do mid-year moves, Faulkner said. (DeLeonardis’ building wouldn’t be ready for students until early 2011.)

“Here we have a successful high school, that does very well, and we can’t find a way to keep it intact… in the community,” said Faulkner.

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INSTEAD OF MOVING TO THE SOUTH BRONX, STUDENTS WOULD RATHER THE SCHOOL RELOCATE TO THIS BUILDING ON EAST 179TH STREET AT JEROME AVENUE (PHOTO: J. FERGUSSON)

Department of Education officials also say money is an issue; there are no capital funds for new high school capacity in Education District 10, in which the Jerome Avenue building sits. (At present, the DOE doesn’t pay rent for the building on BCC’s campus, according to college spokesman, Bryant Mason.)

So it is over? Is the local area going to lose its only high school?

In a statement emailed to the Monitor, DOE spokesman Danny Kanner hinted that the agency was still keeping its options open. He wrote, in part: “We will work with Councilmember Cabrera to review alternatives that come up, but first and foremost we must make sure every student at University Heights has a seat in September.”

Beyond that, the DOE made no commitments, and wouldn’t discuss the Jerome Avenue building with a reporter.

As Faulkner sees it, if BCC would allow the school to remain on its campus until January 2011, the school could then take over the Jerome Avenue building – providing the DOE okayed a mid-year move.

“We’re going to try to resolve this,” Faulkner said. “We’re going to get all the parties in one room.”

Related articles:

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

Comments

2 Responses to “City Approves Local High School’s Move to the South Bronx; Students Slam the Decision, Vow to Fight On”

  1. DR on April 14th, 2010 7:58 am

    This is a very disappointing decision. As the parent of a middle-school bound child living near BCC, I can understand why it’s so important to keep a high-performing high school in the community. The pickings in the Bronx are slim. The BCC campus creates a wonderful academic atmosphere for the students, perhaps giving them a bit of an oasis in the Bronx. There are no other nearby high schools that I can think of and with the MTA’s plan to cut student metrocards, what will neighborhood students do if their parents cannot afford daily transportation to and from school? I understand that BCC needs the space and they have a right to reclaim it. But then the DOE has a duty to find a suitable alternative space within this same community.

  2. Cabrera Rips the Dept. of Education Over School’s Relocation : Mount Hope Monitor on May 12th, 2010 11:50 am

    [...] City Approves School’s Move to the South Bronx High School campus Protests Continue Over H.S.’s Relocation; School’s Fate May Be Decided at March Meeting 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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