Girls Prep is set to expand, but Shuang Wen space safe

By Albert Amateau

Girls Preparatory Charter School, with 261 elementary school students in its Lower East Side building, will expand over the next three years to accommodate between 200 and 250 new middle school students, according to a Jan. 8 decision by the Department of Education.

The decision seems to partially satisfy the demands for middle school space from the charter school parents, and also allays the fears of parents and friends of Shuang Wen, the District 1 dual-language English-Mandarin school.

Shuang Wen parents last November protested that accommodating the Girls Prep expansion would take scarce schoolrooms away from Shuang Wen, whose kindergarten-to-eighth-grade classes with 646 students are located at 327 Cherry St. near Montgomery St.

The Jan. 8 decision, however, will have no impact on Shuang Wen, according to D.O.E.

While parents of P.S. 20 students also feared that the Girls Prep expansion would take space away from their school, the decision does not involve P.S. 20. However, Lisa Donlan, president of the District 1 Community Education Council, said this week that the District 1 C.E.C. office is likely to move from its present location at 220 Henry St. to the P.S. 20 building at 166 Essex St. Donlan said the C.E.C. office would probably occupy no more than two rooms in the building.

Girls Prep, located in the building at 442 E. Houston St. with a capacity for 1,010 students, shares space with P.S. 188, The Island School, with 389 students in grades K-5. The building also accommodates P.S. 94, a special education school for about 39 severely handicapped students in about nine classrooms.

D.O.E. said it expects P.S. 94 to graduate many of the current students over the next few years, reducing the number of special ed sections from nine to five. The department also assumes that The Island School’s enrollment will not increase. Moreover, last year the E. Houston St. building with its three schools was only at 67 percent capacity, according to D.O.E.

“In the long term, as P.S. 94 students matriculate, the building will have sufficient space for the grade expansion of Girls Prep and for P.S. 188 and P.S. 94 to operate at full organizational capacity. There will be no students displaced at P.S. 94 and P.S. 188 by the expansion of Girls Prep,” the D.O.E. decision said.

Girls Prep, currently covering grades K-5, will add grade 6 in the 2010-’11 school year. Grade 7 will be added in 2011-’12 and Grade 8 in September 2012, the decision said. The expansion “will create approximately 200 to 250 new middle school seats,” according to D.O.E.

However, Donlan, the District 1 C.E.C. president, said it was not clear that Girls Prep would get all the classrooms it wanted. It is possible that there would be only two classes instead of three for each new middle school grade, Donlan suggested.

She also said details regarding the P.S. 94 special education program in the building were not clear. New construction for special education in District 2 next year is expected to provide some space for District 1 needs.