A plan to move a high school seven miles from its Williamsburg home has support from school leaders and students. But elected parent officials from its current geographic district and the one it would move to this fall say the plan is ill-conceived.
Members of both the Community Education Councils for District 14 and District 19 joined together at a public hearing Monday night to argue that the school’s high quality and focus on writing makes it a poor choice for the move.
Ever since the Department of Education announced it was considering moving Williamsburg’s Academy for Young Writers to East New York, members of the school community have given their endorsement. Under the plan, Young Writers would get space in a brand-new building and expand to include middle school grades.
“We’re excited about the opportunity described in the proposal,” Principal Courtney Winkfield said at a public hearing about the move Monday night, which drew about 50 people.
“In this current school year over 60 percent of our students come from East New York and Brownsville, and travel an hour each day. About 25 percent come from Crown Heights or Bed-Stuy, and travel an hour and 45 minutes to get here,” she said. “[The DOE] is taking a program that has served them for the past several years, and putting it in their neighborhood.”
But parent leaders in District 14, where the school is currently located but which supplies just 10 percent of students, said they don’t want to see Young Writers leave — in large part because a Success Academy charter school is set to move in under a DOE proposal.
“We see District 19’s gain as District 14’s loss,” said Tesa Wilson, the president of CEC 14. “We have a real need for quality high school choice in this neighborhood. There’s no need for more elementary schools. There’s a glut.”
District 14 is set to lose at least one high school option with the closure of Williamsburg Charter High School, which the city said Monday would shut its doors at the end of the year because of mismanagement. Two other charter high schools in the same network are also seen to be at risk.
The options are seen as even more grim in District 19. Students who are part of a leadership team at Young Writers said they would have chosen a school closer to the new location if there had been better options.
“I chose not to go to a school in my district because they suck, truly and honestly,” said Onika Kaskazi, a senior who lives in Brownsville.
A handful of representatives from District 19’s parent council made the trek to Williamsburg to oppose the move. They said they worried that the proposed site, a new building that is flanked by factories and an athletic field, would attract gang violence. They also said parents in the district wanted a school with a focus on technology, not a school with “writers” in its name.
“We want what we asked for — Technology, medical. That’s more important,” said Doreen Black, the president of CEC 19.
Black also said she was concerned that Young Writers would be too selective for many East New York and Brownsville students. In fact, the school received an A on the city’s report card and posts an 86 percent graduation rate, but it does not screen students for admission.
Other parents suggested that Young Writers could be a good addition to a district with few high-quality middle school options — if only their own children could attend. The school would not begin adding middle school grades until 2013 under the department’s plan.
“My son is in fifth-grade, and he’s robbed of the opportunity because they need a year to settle in?” Erica Perez, a member of CEC 19, asked.