Co-Location Opponents Keep Fighting, PEP Keeps Approving

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Yolanda Chang, a seventh-grader at I.S. 171 in Brooklyn, protests a co-location at a meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy.

For the second time this month, the voting board with a majority of members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg has approved another round of proposals to site schools in public school buildings, including opening 15 new schools.

And, in keeping with the usual theme of meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy, opposition to the proposals was loud and angry in the auditorium of Prospects Heights High School.

Parents and school staff spoke of how a new school in the building would undermine the programs at the existing schools that would be forced to share space. Students held up homemade signs in protest. Some crowd-members, who generally directed their vehemence toward members of the P.E.P., also turned their boos to the few parents who did speak out in support of the Department of Education's plans and of the vision of giving the city more school options.  

Opponents admitted that they knew their protests would not sway the P.E.P., but said it was important to voice their opposition nonetheless. 

"We just feel that it's the right thing to do -- that we have to stand up for our kids," said Kathleen Bayer, a teacher at P.S. 16 on Staten Island. The D.O.E. plans to open a new elementary school in the building.

More than 1,100 schools currently share space in about 540 buildings.

Before the meeting, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he understands why the debate of school proposals can get so heated.

"A lot of times people view their buildings as their own buildings," he said. "These are buildings that are available for students of New York City, and our goal is to make sure that we maximize the use of that space."