City plans to take space from autism program at PS 32 for charter school

Posted on March 10, 2011

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Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is readying a
move from Sunset Park into PS 32 on Hoyt and
Union streets, a proposal that critics say will
eliminate space dedicated to the school’s 40
autistic students.

“Our school is going to be radically altered,”
said Larissa Bailiff, whose autistic son Evan is
a first-grader at the school.

As part of the so-called Nest program, autistic
kids at PS 32 are integrated into regular,
classroom settings with a maximum of 16 students.

They’re also provided with special socialization
and behavioral exercises in separate rooms, which
will all but vanish once the charter school comes
to roost, Bailiff said.

“There won’t be room for them to be pulled out of
class and work in small groups,” Bailiff said.
Brooklyn Bridge Realty

And that could be hard on kids with autism – a
spectrum of developmental disorders affecting
social and communication skills – who can be
unusually distressed by changes to routine.

But city stats list the school building as
underutilized, allowing the charter school’s 300,
sixth-through-eighth-grade students to occupy 12
classrooms, with the other 500 kids from PS 32,
and the New Horizons Middle School – which also
shares space in the building – filling out the
remaining 34 rooms.

City officials insisted that the charter school’s
relocation is only temporary until it can make a
permanent move to space at Douglass Street and
Third Avenue in Gowanus.

“Brooklyn Prospect would move out no later than
Aug. 1, 2012,” the city stated in a description.

School officials were galled.

“I don’t see this plan as one that puts children
first,” said Adam Marcus, the PS 32 librarian.
“They are taking a program that we have
successfully run that requires smaller class
size, and turning that around.”

In 2003, PS 32 was the first school to host the
Nest program, which has since expanded to more
than 20 schools citywide.

The Department of Education did not provide a
comment by press time. A public hearing on the
matter is planned, but a date has yet to be
announced before an April 28 vote by the city’s
Panel for Education Policy.

The teacher’s union painted the plan as part of
purposeful strategy to destroy neighborhood
schools, and said it did not believe that the
school would be gone in just a year, as the city
claimed in the plan.

“They take more and more of your space,” said
Rebecca Alford, a chapter leader at the teacher’s
union.

“Take a look at PS 15,” she said, referring to
the Red Hook school where a charter school was
given three more years in the building before it
has to find a new home.

And parents said they’re already considering options for next year.

“There won’t be any reason to keep my son in the
program because all the great services he’s been
getting won’t be up to par anymore – because they
won’t have any space in which to do them,” said a
Windsor Terrace mom who wished to remain
anonymous.

“Sticking them in cubby holes isn’t the same kind of service.”

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the
matter at the International High School [883
Classon Ave, between President and Union streets
in Prospect Heights, (718) 622-6496], April 28 at
6 pm.

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