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Charter School Relocation to PS 32 Threatens Autism Program, Among Others

Plan to relocate Brooklyn Prospect Charter School to Hoyt Street faces opposition

Teachers and administrators at  are not happy about a Department of Education plan to relocate Brooklyn Prospect Charter School from its current home at Sunset Park High School to their building on Hoyt Street in Carroll Gardens.

The relocation will bring approximately 300 more students to the school, thus reducing the amount of space for music and art classes as well as PS 32's specialized program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

"We have a very successful program for children with Asperger's Syndrome which can not properly function if we lose this space," said Francine Cuomo, the school's business manager and a teacher. "These children come with a lot of special needs."

The "Nest" program, which was the first of its kind in New York City public schools, integrates students with ASD into the mainstream classrooms. The Nest program incorporates occupational and physical therapy, as well as socialization classes, into the curriculum.

Cuomo expressed concern that with the overcrowding, the students in the ASD program will not have the space they require to learn.

"These students can't function in busy settings," she said. "Without the extra space, where will therapy be held?"

According to Department of Education documents on school utilization, there is extra space at the school, enough to temporarily house the 300 students from Brooklyn Prospect. The charter school students will be based in the portable classrooms behind the school building.

Brooklyn Prospect is set to move into its permanent location at 270 Douglass St. in Gowanus the following year.

But at a District 15 Community Education Council meeting on Thursday last week, President Jim DeVor as well as teachers attending the meeting expressed dismay when told by Thomas Taratko, executive director of the Office of Space Planning at the Department of Education, that the school had extra space.

There was no discussion at the meeting of Brooklyn Prospect Charter possibly moving in. The next day the plan was presented to the principal of PS 32, Deborah Florio.

DeVor said in an interview that Florio was told by the DOE that the District 15 Community Education Council was "ok" with the plan to relocate Brooklyn Prospect.

"I was surprised and furious," he said.

DeVor also said the Nest program needs to be protected.

"We're not happy in large part because I don't think there is sufficient attention being given to the nature of the programs at PS 32," he said. "These students need to be in smaller class sizes in full size classrooms."

The PS 32 PTA is meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to discuss strategy. The meeting is being held at the school at 317 Hoyt St.

"We are very upset about this," said Cuomo, who also said that art, music and science rooms would have to be reverted to general education classrooms if the school must accommodate 300 more students.

"Many of our children don't have access to extra-curricular activities outside of school," she said.

Dan Rubenstein, Principal of Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, said he did not hear until the very last second where the school would be relocated to.

"It's a surprise to us too, that's not where we thought we'd be," he said, adding "We're happy to have a place to exist while our building is constructed."

DeVor said school officials and District 15 leaders are going to try to fight the relocation.

"This is unacceptable," he said.

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The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the relocation at a meeting on April 28 at 6 p.m. at Prospect Heights Campus, 883 Classon Ave. See more details here.

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