Proposed relocation of relocated high school threatens access to vital services – New York Daily News, students, educators say

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An Upper West Side high school for students defaulting on credits is set to move Crosstown to a building on Manhattan’s East Side—without some of the support and critical space available in its current location.

A proposal to move the Edward A. Reynolds Westside High School to East Harlem Backlash from students, teachers and local councilorswho fear the move will cost them a reliable school health center for primary care, and a child care program for pupils with children.

Education officials said at a public hearing this week that students can still access services at the original location about 1.3 miles away, or any other daycare on the East Side. But this isn’t a solution for young people who juggle work, parenting, and other stresses with their classes, according to students and staff.

Edward A. Reynolds Westside High School

“I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school,” said Alisa Karkagina, 19, who enrolled her infant in childcare when he was two months old. “I was able to focus in class, knowing that I could visit my child whenever I wanted.”

This step will change that. “I feel like we’re being punished,” Karcagena said.

West Side High School has lost enrollment in recent years, leading the city to suggest swap locations with The Young Women Leadership School, a growing program on the East Side. The transfer school also plans to start a bilingual Spanish program, which education officials said could increase demand in East Harlem and help grow its rosters, which have dwindled to nearly 200 students.

“I want to acknowledge that we have heard your concerns,” Superintendent John Sullivan said at the hearing Tuesday night. “NYC Public Schools and I are committed to supporting your school with the resources to continue serving students effectively.”

The district official added that a program through Goddard Riverside that provides paid internships, college and job readiness opportunities, will also carry over to Westside High School.

But students and teachers suggest the plan, while plausible on paper, diminishes the experiences of the unique residents the school serves. This includes youth who faced threats or violence in their previous schools that led them to relocate, or who need additional support while parenting or moving out of juvenile detention.

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“Most students who come to us have been failed in one way or another by the rest of the system, so they come to us with a second—and often last—chance at graduating with a high school diploma.” said special education teacher Joel Solow. “It is an underestimation of how little shifts and changes can derail them.”

Young people also raised concerns about gang violence if moving to a new neighborhood would lead to clashes between different groups. One student warned at the public hearing that if the school moved, he wouldn’t move with it. Another warned that it would result in “great amounts of blood on your hands, if we moved to the eastern side”.

It was a concern echoed by many council members or their representatives, who spoke out against the move at the hearing or in communication with education officials.

“This building is a gem, and it should be filled with students who need the resources it provides,” Councilwoman Gail Brewer wrote in a letter to Chancellor David Banks obtained by The News.

The proposal is scheduled to be voted on by the Education Policy Committee, made up mostly of mayoral appointees who follow the administration’s directives, on April 19.

“The re-location process is still in the proposal stage, and if approved, we will continue to explore opportunities to provide additional support,” said Sean Tull, a Public Schools spokesperson.