NY: NOW, PARENTS IN BOERUM HILL RAISE OBJECTIONS TO AN ARABIC SCHOOL
The Department of Education stood on the firing line last night at a contentious PTA meeting attended by more than 100 Brooklyn parents whose schools are set to share space with the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a new dual-language school that will teach Arabic language and culture.
Parents at the Math and Science Exploratory School, a middle school, and the Brooklyn High School of the Arts complained that the Khalil Gibran school, scheduled to open at 345 Dean Street in Boerum Hill in September, would take up too much space and disrupt their programs.
Garth Harries, chief executive of the Office of New Schools at the Education Department, fielded questions from parents, promising that the school would occupy space in the building for only two years.
"You keep saying there's room here," said one parent, to thunderous applause. "Where exactly is this room you all are talking about?"
"What's the rush?" another parent said. "Why do we have to feel like this is being shoved down our throats?"
By department guidelines, there is no space problem: With a capacity of 1,900 students, the building has room to accommodate all three schools. The projected fall enrollment for the Brooklyn High School of the Arts is 762, and the projected enrollment for the Math and Science school is 458, a total of 1,220 students. Even if the Khalil Gibran school fills its 60 seats, down from a planned 80, the building would still be more than 600 students under capacity.
It was the second time this month that a group of angry parents in Brooklyn objected to sharing space with the Khalil Gibran school, which would enroll only sixth graders at first. Ten days ago, the department scuttled its plan to put it in the building that houses Public School 282, an elementary school in Park Slope, after parents protested over sharing space and after a columnist for The New York Sun called the school a madrassa, an Islamic religious school, and suggested that citizens carry torches and surround City Hall to prevent its opening.
But this time, the Department of Education seems determined to tamp down the rebellion.
"We are not looking for alternatives for Khalil Gibran," said Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman who attended last night's meeting. "The school will open as planned."