Parents And Teachers Rally For PS 32

Department of Education Exploring Other Options

The auditorium was almost at capacity last night as teachers, parents, students and grandparents rallied to "save" their school.

In the last couple of days, said Principal Deborah Florio, the school has been reeling, trying to figure out what to do with the recent announcement that

The same classrooms are currently used for the school's renowned and highly successful "Nest" program for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Late yesterday afternoon, the Department of Education issued a statement that said while they did not believe students in the ASD Nest program would be adversely affected by the approximately 300 more students from Brooklyn Prospect, they would reassess their options for the charter school. 

While this news was a step in the right direction, said PTA member and parent Larissa Bailiff at the meeting, parents need to continue fighting the proposal.

"This is a time to act up, speak up," she said. "It's not an ASD issue, it's an issue for every student in the school."

Administrators called on parents and community members to call their local elected representatives, email Mayor Bloomberg and talk with local residents about the possibility of 300 more young teenagers attending the school. A website was created by librarian Adam Marcus that compiled whom to contact.

Local elected representatives, including Councilmember Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, are working alongside PS 32 to fight the proposal, administrators said.

"PS 32 is one of our public schools that truly works, and the Nest program has a proven record of giving autistic children the support they need to grow and thrive," said Squadron in a statement today.

Parents are concerned about school overcrowding, the elimination of programs and the cutback on services for students already enrolled at the school.

Michelle Pion, whose 6-year-old son attends PS 32, was worried about so many bigger kids at the school.

"Junior high schoolers are 14, pre schoolers are 4!" she said, to applause. "How are they gonna fit 14-year-olds in that trailer?"

Second grade teacher Cathleen McCarthy stressed how the resources available to students in the Nest program also benefit the general education students.

"All the kids get academic intervention help," she said, referencing the extra assistnace those teachers provide. "Those small groups could happen in a hallway, or not happen at all."

"If they take that away from us they're taking away one of the very tools we're using to move your kids forward."

Teacher and UFT union chapter leader Becky Alford told parents that the formula used by the DOE to determine that there was space for more students at PS 32 was improperly calculated.

"They call our school underutilized, but the formula assumes full classes," she said, explaining that the formula was based on full class sizes, rather than the mandated smaller class sizes for Nest students.

"The statement [that the school is underutilized] is a lie," she said.

Marcus, the librarian, added more fuel to the fire.

"As parents you need to get angry right now," he said. "The DOE is saying your children don't matter."

Councilmember Lander said today that he was glad the DOE was exploring other options.

"The classrooms that were proposed to be taken away provide essential services -- speech, physical activity, music, art, social development," he said. "Requiring PS 32 to eliminate the special features ... would be a major setback for these children.


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