Today’s news:

Ed board blasts DOE plan

One month after unanimously passing a resolution to temporarily stop the city Department of Education from designating schools as underused, Community District Education Council 30 voted last Thursday to oppose the DOE’s stance that four of the district’s schools could take in more students.

“The Department of Education should be ashamed of themselves,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who visited the meeting in support of CDEC 30.

At its meeting, held last Thursday at PS 122 at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria, CDEC 30 voted to oppose the DOE’s decision that PS 171 at 14-14 29th Ave. in Astoria, IS 227 at 32-02 Junction Blvd. in East Elmhurst, PS 280 at 34-20 94th St. in Jackson Heights and PS 111 at 37-15 13th St. in Long Island City were able to take in more students.

In addition to Marshall, about 40 people attended the meeting, including City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), civic members, parents and students of PS 111, who held up signs with messages such as “Why do the public school students have to suffer?” and “Give to the needy public, not the greedy charter.”

The DOE did not respond for requests to comment by press time Tuesday.

CDEC 30 focused on this issue last month, when a planning document leak to The New York Times revealed the department’s proposals to designate certain schools in the city as able to take in more students. Since the school’s process for determining if schools are underused has been undergoing an audit since December by City Comptroller John Liu, CDEC 30 requested no more schools be designated as underused until the audit was complete. The council was spurred to this decision because it disagreed with the planned designation of the four district schools as underutilized.

CDEC 30’s resolutions said PS 111 and PS 171, as recipients of a Federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grant, need to have seats available so students outside its zone can apply. It also said IS 227, recently designated as a Title I school, meaning its class sizes could not be larger than 30 students for 2009-11, has been divided into three learning communities that use all the rooms and hosts numerous programs throughout the day.

“That school is far from being vacant,” Marshall said.

The resolutions also said the recently opened PS 280, a former Catholic school now leased by Blessed Sacrament Church to the city, will be adding a grade each year into 2013 and is still used by the church and a literacy group after hours.

“The formulas that they [the DOE] use are extremely questionable,” said Jeff Guyton, one of the co-presidents of CDEC 30.

Parents and students at PS 111 also protested how The Voice Charter School, which operates the PS 111 building, wants to expand. One student, Zaanaib Muhammad, 13, said the charter has taken over the gym and has asked to take over one of the science rooms.

“We just want to have our freedom back,” she said. “We want our school back.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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