One middle school better than 2, parent group says

Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson Heather Campbell, left, and Heather Lortie, members of the 75 Morton St. envisioning group.

Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson
Heather Campbell, left, and Heather Lortie, members of the 75 Morton St. envisioning group.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Downtown is getting a building to convert into a school at 75 Morton St. This much is known.

But, first, the big questions that need to be answered are: What grade levels and how many schools should the building include?

A group of local school parents has hired its own facilitator and held three meetings to consider what would be the best fit for the building, and for Community School District 2, as a whole. At a meeting of the 75 Morton Task Force April 22, this group presented their findings thus far in a report on their “envisioning process.”

Many in the group think the best use for 75 Morton St. would be as one middle school with 900 students, from grades 6 to 8. Of this number, about 90 would be special-education students.

However, School Construction Authority officials previously stated the city felt two, smaller middle schools would be the best use.

“We need middle school seats — that was the envisioning group’s consensus,” said Heather Campbell, a member of Community Board 2 who is also part of the envisioning group.

Campbell said P.S. 41, for example, is one large school, with 800 students, and functions very well. On the other hand, when a school building is divided up into two schools, she said, “You get the ‘A’ level and the ‘B’ level — it just happens.”

Co-locating schools in the same building poses challenges, she added, noting, “Sharing’s hard.”

Heather Lortie, another member of the group, said School District 2 is desperate for more space for students in the sixth to eighth grades.

“We’re already at capacity with the middle school seats we have,” she said, adding that, in particular, “The West Side needs a middle school.”

What educational slant a 75 Morton school might have isn’t yet known, and is a “next steps” issue to address a bit farther in the future. But representatives of the Whitney Museum and the Children’s Museum of the Arts spoke at last week’s meeting, emphasizing the importance of arts education. Another local parent who is also a science teacher said not to forget about science, either.

Next, the two branches of the 75 Morton Task Force — Community Board 2 and the District 2 Community Education Council — will make their recommendations on what grade levels and how many schools the building should have. S.C.A. needs to know this information before it starts construction on 75 Morton in June.

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