Thursday, February 14, 2008

Daily News Article about this situation

Red Hook school may lose small classes

Wednesday, February 13th 2008, 4:00 AM

A premier Red Hook elementary school may lose the small classes that made it a success if the Department of Education puts a charter school in the building, its principal told parents Tuesday night.

"PS 15 has been working very, very hard to maintain low class sizes," Principal Peggy Wyns-Madison told an auditorium full of worried parents gathered at the Patrick F. Daly School, named for a beloved former principal who was gunned down 16 years ago while searching for a student in a nearby housing project. "I may have a little bit of difficulty in maintaining small class size."

Small classes of no more than 24 students were the "reason why we have made steady progress over the last five years," she told the packed school auditorium.

Wyns-Madison spoke a day after the Daily News reported that city Education Department officials want to add a charter school to the Sullivan St. building in the fall, claiming Public School 15 used only 54% of its capacity.

The PAVE - Perseverance, Achievement, Vibrance and Excellent Character - charter school would take over six classrooms at PS 15, and enroll 88 students the first year. The charter school would take two additional classrooms in the second year.

PAVE officials have also said its classes would be small, limited to 22 students.

PS 15, which got an "A" on its city report card, outperforming some of Brooklyn's best schools, has classes with as few as 13 students, Education Department statistics show.

"All the time they say 'smaller class size, small class size,'" said PS 15 parent Angela Gooding, whose kids are in the fourth and fifth grades. "We have it; they want to take it away. They made the decision and then they come out to pacify us."

PS 15 social studies teacher Ieman Elzoghby said the school's science lab and social studies project room were among the classrooms that would be handed over to PAVE.

"We do believe [PS 15's success] might be jeopardized by having fewer classrooms," Elzoghby said.

According to the Education Department's proposed plan, the charter school will stay in PS 15's building for two years until it finds a permanent home.

But that did little to reassure Dimas Melo, 31, whose 7-year-old son, Demarkus, is a second-grader at PS 15. "What makes sense to me is to put it somewhere long term," Melo said.

Sandra Lennon, whose grandson Dwain Maxwell, 10, attends PS 15, found herself fuming over the charter plan.

"We took him out of another school. There were 36 kids in a class," she said. "He learns, he understands the work."

Education Department officials did not return calls for comment by press time.

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