This spring SchoolBook formed a partnership with LynNell Hancock's education reporting class at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. During the semester, the students produced articles about issues and people in the city's public school system, and posted them on the class's Web site, SchoolStories: Education Reporting in NYC. For the next few weeks, SchoolBook will be featuring the students' work. This is another in the series.
On a recent afternoon in Christina Adebiyi’s Environmental Stewardship class at Public School 208, 20 fourth graders were hard at work examining a map of their community. The students were crowded around an electronic whiteboard, called a SMARTBoard, attempting to locate local homeless shelters and food banks.
The activity was part of a project that encouraged students to improve their community by first understanding their neighborhood, and then finding resources to help those in need. Environmental stewardship is taught to all third through fifth graders at P.S. 208, or the Alain L. Locke Elementary School, a magnet school in Harlem that serves 200 third, fourth and fifth graders.
But when the new school year starts in August, supporters of the magnet school worry that classes like Adebiyi’s will disappear. The Success Academy charter school network will be moving 150 fifth graders from Harlem Success Academy 2 and Harlem Success Academy 3 into the same building as P.S. 208.
This move has pitted supporters of the magnet school against advocates of the charter school. It also represents a clash between two types of school choice: magnets, specialized programs within public schools, and charters, public schools that operate independently. Both claim to offer parents alternatives to traditional public schools.
Officials at the magnet school are appealing the move to the Department of Education because they say that adding another school to the building will stop the growth of the magnet program. According to Laurie Frey, secretary of the Community Education Council 3, the appeal process could take time. “Right now they have several weeks to ‘answer,’ the appeal, then we ‘reply.’ So it will be several more weeks at least,” Frey said.
Supporters of 208 are worried that the school will become overcrowded and will be unable to accept more students and meet diversity targets required by the 2010 federal grant that allowed for the establishment of the school. Success Academy’s administrators say that the building has plenty of room for another school, and is running under capacity.
Read more of Jacqueline Mader and Lubna Zaidi's article on SchoolStories.org.