Currently P.S. 122 operates as a K-8 school, but only students in the gifted-and-talented program stay until 8th grade. General education students leave the school after 5th grade, but the Department of Education (DOE) is proposing keeping all students through 8th grade.
The changes would not take full effect until 2019.
Parents voiced their strong opposition at two different venues, once in the auditorium of the school at a hearing on the proposal and again outside Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street.
At the hearing, a DOE representative said the department believes every student should be eligible to attend a school for as long as they can without having to switch.
However, according to the staff at the school, rooms used for arts education would have to be used as regular classrooms. Also, the school, which already operates over capacity, would be functioning at close to 130 percent.
PTA president Claudia McKenna-Lieto fears the change is to make way for charter schools. Her theory is that if the students from P.S. 122 stay in the school until 8th grade, than the local middle school would eventually phase out.
“I don’t see how they can keep their doors open,” she said. “There is a smell of charter all over this.”
While the DOE has not made any public comment regarding charter schools, Success Academy Charter School has recently updated their website and included two proposed schools in the same district as P.S. 122.
McKenna-Lieto said while that she was glad to have arranged a meeting with Walcott - it will likely take place next month - she is not optimistic about the outcome.
“When I heard I was elated,” she said, but after thinking about the meeting, she said she fears she would be “talked at.”
“Chancellor Walcott and his team are very responsive and listen closely to feedback from families,” said Devon Puglia, a DOE representative. “We look forward to meeting with this community once again and articulating our rationale for this plan: equality and fairness for all students.”
So far the PTA has secured 2,200 signatures from local residents opposing the proposal, 350 letters of opposition, and eight letters from local elected officials also opposing the project.
“I hope the DOE will listen to common sense and reason,” McKenna-Lieto said.