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NY Post
New York Post
27 May 2023

NextImg:UWS school so overcrowded with migrants it can no longer provide popular programs: parents

The city Department of Education is ignoring pleas to help an Upper West Side public school so overwhelmed by an influx of migrant kids that it can no longer provide popular programs due to a lack of space, angry parents told The Post.

With 535 students currently crammed into PS 145 – nearly 100 more than what the West 105th Street school is designed to hold – parents said all students, including newcomers from Ukraine, Russia, and Latin America, are suffering for it. Last year, the school had 393 students.

Since the fall, after the city enrolled scores of young asylum seekers – many housed in a former shelter at the nearby Park West Hotel –  rooms previously used for a music program, a TV studio where kids produced videos and a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics [STEAM] lab had to be converted into classrooms.

Science equipment, musical instruments, books, and other supplies bought with taxpayer dollars and grants now sit in a cluttered storage closet gathering dust, next to desks for displaced science teachers.

Science equipment, musical instruments, and other supplies sit in a storage closet next to desks for displaced teachers.
Naveed Hasan

With the former library partitioned into multiple, tight spaces for kids with special needs to receive services, all PS 145 students lost an after-school sanctuary for reading and homework.

“It’s just unacceptable,” fumed Anna Azvolinsky, who has a daughter in third grade and a son in pre-K. “These kids deserve better.”

Citywide, an estimated 16,000 migrant kids have enrolled in city public schools since the fall — far exceeding about 1,700 who arrived the prior academic year and started school in September.

Picture shows faulty divisions between teacher instruction spaces.
The former school library was partitioned into multiple, tight spaces for kids with special needs to receive services.
Naveed Hasan

Many PS 145 parents — who live in one of the city’s most liberal neighborhoods, overwhelmingly voting for Joe Biden for president in 2020 — insisted they welcome the newcomers, but are furious with the DOE for blowing off their repeated pleas for more space.

That includes a proposal – pitched by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Councilmember Gale Brewer to Chancellor David Banks – for the DOE to rent two floors available next door at the Romemu synagogue community center.

“I can’t get an answer from the city – nothing. They don’t respond,” said Naveed Hasan, the Manhattan parent representative on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy with a third-grader at PS 145. “We have the perfect space next door – get it for us.  We have a solution – do it!”

Some parents were especially peeved after city officials paraded a production crew from “60 Minutes” through PS 145 for a November news segment on the Big Apple migrant crisis that cast welcoming public schools as “the one bright spot.”

Since then, however, the city has ignored the cramped classrooms and lost programs, they said. The DOE is “not competent,” Hasan said.

In February, 207 parents signed a letter to Kamar Samuels, schools superintendent of Manhattan’s District 3, calling on the DOE to immediately re-evaluate PS 145’s “distribution of space” in light of a class-size reduction bill for Big Apple schools passed in July by the state Legislature.

The package included hand-scribed notes to Samuels from second and third-graders.

“I am happy that we have a lot of new kids, but it’s not okay that we don’t have enough space,” wrote Lucy Weingarten, 8. “Please work with our school to help get more space this year!!”

Letter sent to Superintendent Samuels from Lucy Weingarten, 8.
“I am happy that we have a lot of new kids, but it’s not okay that we don’t have enough space,” wrote Lucy Weingarten, 8.
PS 145 students
Letter from P.S. 145 student to Superintendent Samuels.
Second- and third-graders wrote expressing disappointment in the termination of several popular programs.
PS 145 students

The DOE’s response: It sent “space management” and “district planning” bureaucrats who blamed the classroom crunch on PS 145, parents said because the school increased enrollment before the migrant influx by adding two highly popular programs: universal 3-K and Russian dual-language.

“They didn’t offer any solutions,” recalled Lauren Balaban, whose kindergartner is in the Spanish dual-language program, which started six years ago. “They said, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it and it’s your problem.'”

A City Hall spokesman said reps of the School Construction Authority and other officials visited the synagogue center on May 11 but “unfortunately” found the space “not viable for use” because most rooms don’t meet DOE guidelines for full-size classrooms, requiring “significant” construction.

The Bloomingdale School
“60 Minutes” highlighted P.S.145 in a segment on the migrant crisis that cast public schools as “the one bright spot.”
Helayne Seidman

The spokesman insisted Banks and the DOE have been “highly engaged” with P.S. 145 parents and are “committed to partnering… to alleviate crowding and support enrollment growth” at the school.

A stunned Hasan said DOE officials never told parents about a May 11 visit. “Why are we getting this information from The Post?” he said.

He questioned the DOE’s reasoning: “They come up with justification when they don’t want to act.”

The city has poured more than $25 million into cash-strapped schools hit with swelling enrollments, and promised more “adjustments.”

But parent patience hit a breaking point this month when the city began putting cots for newly-arrived migrant families in school gyms.

Amid loud protests, officials quickly rescinded the move.