News | West Harlem

Enrollment discrepancy sparks co-located Harlem schools’ space conflict

  • Jeong Yeon Han for Spectator
    SHARING IS CARING | The school building on 114th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard is home to public schools Frederick Douglass Academy II and Wadleigh Secondary School, and charter school Success Academy Harlem I.

Differences between projected and actual enrollment numbers at a three-school co-located building on 114th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard are causing new conflicts over classroom space with a planned Department of Education-led space reallocation.

Education leaders are opposing a planned reallocation of two classrooms in the building from the public school Frederick Douglass Academy II to the charter school Success Academy Harlem I, citing a higher demand for the public school.

“The way the co-location was originally set up, it didn’t take into account that all the schools on the campus were going to start growing,” Osei Owusu-Afriyie, the principal of FDA II, said.

The DOE allowed Success Academy to take over the space based on 2010 enrollment projections at all three schools. FDA II has seen the number of students applying increase more quickly than expected—950 students applied for the school’s 100 ninth-grade seats, compared with 391 last year—while Success Academy’s need for space was spurred by the addition of an eighth-grade class last fall.

If the reallocation goes ahead as planned, FDA II could lose its only art space—putting into question how students will be able to fulfill their arts graduation requirement and jeopardizing the overall arts program at the school.

“We have a vibrant partnership with Lincoln Center, so we blend an aesthetic curriculum into our entire curriculum,” Owusu-Afriyie said. 

Owusu-Afriyie said that he hopes to come to a new solution within the next few weeks. Meanwhile, community education leaders said the reallocation plan doesn’t reflect the actual needs and demands of each school.

“FDA II is questioning this, understandably, because the allocation is based on the Education Impact Statement that was done three years ago, which is obsolete given that FDA II’s enrollment is more than expected for next year, and Success Academy’s enrollment is less than expected,” Noah Gotbaum, a member of Community Education Council 3, said about the proposed reallocation.

The 2010 EIS based space allocations on ranges for enrollment at both and FDA II and Wadleigh Secondary School, the third school in the building, and said that, should Success Academy co-location be approved, “it would still be possible for FDA II and/or Wadleigh to expand.”

But when the upper enrollment projections for Wadleigh and FDA II were computed with the additional co-located school, the DOE calculated that space use at the campus would be above the building’s capacity—102 percent in the 2013-14 school year, and 111 percent in the 2014-15 school year.

“The allocation wasn’t fair to begin with, and it’s really unfair now that the enrollment numbers three years later are clear,” Gotbaum said.

Owusu-Afriyie said that he was negotiating with Success Academy when the school was preparing to move into the building to minimize space conflicts. At the time, the DOE built new offices for FDA II after Success Academy converted their previous offices into classrooms. 

Now, the DOE is proposing converting FDA II’s current office space into an art space to replace the reallocated rooms.

Both projects used or would use DOE matching funds given to public schools to help equalize funding between them and the charter schools with which they are co-located. But Owusu-Afriyie said that the new solution still doesn’t solve longstanding space issues, like where FDA II’s offices would go.

“Instead of using our matching funds to build an art space in our office area, we want to use them to build up our currently existing art space,” Owusu-Afriyie said. 

“They’re supposed to equalize the money with the public schools, but it’s not a transparent process,” Gotbaum said. “How much Success Academies is getting and how much the public schools are getting is never a straight line.”

Gotbaum said that the conflict at FDA II points to a larger issue with school co-locations. 

“The DOE is saying to FDA II, ‘We’re not looking at enrollment numbers, we’re just going to follow the plan,’” he said. “This is true for all co-locations—there’s no assessment.”

Success Academy declined to comment and the DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

deborah.secular@columbiaspectator.com  |  @DeborahSecular

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.