Cram school: CB1 says Millennium High School needs more space

Millennium High School is seeking to expand his Broad Street facility to cope with extreme overcrowding.
Photo by Colin Mixson

BY COLIN MIXSON

The principal of a stand-out Fidi high school is seeking city approval to add roughly 10 classrooms to his Broad Street school in a bid to relieve severe overcrowding there, according to civic gurus on Community Board 1’s Education Committee.

Teachers and community board members are all for the expansions, but they’re concerned that the Department of Education will take Millennium High School principal Colin McEvoy’s plea for more space as an invitation to cram more kids into the jam-packed school, and CB1’s Education Committee voted unanimously in support of adding another floor to the school — but not more kids.

“The number one bullet point here is we’ve lived with overcrowding in that school for years,” said Jeff Mihok, a member of the CB1 Education Committee and a teacher at Millennium High School. “It’s alleviating overcrowding, not giving us a luxurious student environment.”

The overcrowding at Millennium — located on the 11th, 12th, and 13th floors of a commercial building at 75 Broad St. — is a symptom of how the city funds its selective high schools, which accept incoming freshmen from across the city through a competitive admissions process, and are awarded money on the basis of headcount.

That population-based funding scheme forces principals into the awkward position of accepting more students than their school can reasonably serve, with the expectation that a certain number of kids will decline the offer in favor of other schools. Ideally, the practice produces a consistent student population — and thus stable funding — but if the principal’s guesswork is off, it leads to overcrowding.

For the last two years, incoming freshmen have taken up Millennium’s acceptance offers in unexpectedly high numbers, and the results are not pretty, according to the chairwoman of CB1’s Education Committee, who said kids are now crammed 36 to classroom.

“They have to hit that target spot on,” said Tricia Joyce, whose daughter attends 9th grade at Millennium. “If they under-offer, they’re underfunded, and because of that, they’re completely boxed in.”

There are now 700 students crammed into a facility built to accommodate 575, and both kids and faculty have been forced to make sacrifices as a result.

Lobbies and student lounges, built as open spaces where kids could socialize and do homework, have been requisitioned as classrooms, a purpose they’re ill-suited for, according to Mihok.

“You’re teaching in a giant public space, with no contained walls, and it’s louder than you can imagine,” said Mihok. “One has a stairwell right down the center of it — it’s absurd.”

And when the final bell rings, it takes half an hour to clear the building, as students queue up and filter 10 at a time into the three elevators allotted for the school’s use, Mihok said.

Students have to go to Millennium’s Brooklyn campus for sports, and have now performing arts program for lack of space, Joyce said.

The real answer to Millennium’s overcrowding problem is for the city to move towards a classroom-based funding scheme that would provide principals more leeway when it comes to admissions, said Community Board 6 Vice Chairman Paul Hovitz.

In the meantime, McEvoy is seeking to capitalize on an auspicious vacancy in the 14th Floor of 75 Broad St., just above the school’s existing classrooms, giving the school more programming options and the ability to provide more on-site athletic activities — if the city agrees to cap admissions at 700 kids, Hovitz said.

“The idea is to increase the physical space, without having the Department of Ed. bolster the population further,” said Hovitz.

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