Volume 17 • Issue 36 | February 4 - 10, 2005

Seward Park to get 2 new high schools

By Divya Watal

Two new schools are slated to open in Lower Manhattan this September as part of a plan to create 52 small secondary schools in the city, according to the Department of Education.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced the plan on Tuesday. Over 6,750 students will enroll in the new small schools, which offer personalized learning environments and academically rigorous standards, according to the mayor’s office. There are already 105 such schools in the city.

The two Lower Manhattan schools—Lower Manhattan Arts Academy and Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law—will share campus space with Seward Park High School at 350 Grand St. Currently, the school shares space with three other small schools: High School for History and Communications, New Design High School, and Dual Language and Asian Studies High School.

The host school, Seward Park, is phasing out, so there will be room for new organizations there next year, said Kathleen Brady, a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

At present, the campus has a 70 percent utilization rate, which means it has far fewer students than it is designed to hold, and there will be plenty of room for incoming students, Brady added.

The new Lower Manhattan small schools are both high schools, which, in their first year, will only serve ninth-grade students. They can accommodate 81 students each.

In a press statement released Tuesday, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields questioned the space availability for the new schools.

“Only 20 of the new schools will be housed in newly constructed or leased space or converted from existing programs, leaving 30 to be shoehorned into already occupied school buildings,” she said.

In the past two years, she added, high schools had become overcrowded because of Klein’s small schools initiative and were suffering from “stress, security issues, overburdened guidance counselors and teachers, scheduling challenges and strained resources for students.”

Doris Unger, Seward Park’s principal, did not respond to requests for comment. The parent coordinator for the school, Latrice Cordero, was also contacted, but she declined to comment.

The Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, as the name suggests, will focus on academic excellence through the arts. Students will study a particular art, such as visual, choral, instrumental, dance or drama, and work with professional artists during classes, according to the school’s brochure.

The Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law will focus on preparing students to become future leaders in governmental, legal and public service fields, and it will offer specialized courses on government, law and justice studies, according to its brochure.

The Department of Education is organizing several “New School Information Fairs” for interested parents and students starting Saturday, Feb. 5. To find out about times and locations, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov.

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