One week before the city announces its education capital plan, hundreds of elementary school children joined community activists and local elected officials in demanding that a new middle school in Highbridge be part of that plan.
As reported in last month's Highbridge Horizon, the capital plan-- which outlines School Construction Authority (SCA) spending from 2010 to 2014 -- is set to be unveiled November 3.
Local education advocates including United Parents of Highbridge (UPOH) argue that the absence of a middle school in the Highbridge community forces young children to endure long and unsafe commutes to and from school. A document provided by UPOH lists the number of buses and trains the group says students must take in order to get to school. For instance, according to the document, children must take either 2 buses and 2 trains, or 3 buses, to get to IS 219 at 3630 Third Avenue; they must take 2-3 buses to get to IS 227, at 275 Harlem River Park Bridge.
On Monday, supporters of a Highbridge middle school gathered at the site they are proposing for the facility: West 167th Street between University and Sedgwick Avenues. Organizers of the rally mobilized children from several area elementary schools to turn out. The young children energetically chanted "We need a middle school!"
"There is no other open space in this community we could do this in," Bakary Camara, of UPOH, told the Horizon. "We want them to take it seriously. We want to make a statement today that the whole community is behind us on this process."
State Senator José M. Serrano told the crowd that a middle school in Highbridge was necessary to accomodate a growing population. "Highbridge has some of the fastest-growing immigrant populations anywhere in New York," Serrano said. "We are underserved."
Councilmember Helen Diane Foster suggested that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg must deliver a middle school in Highbridge if he is to keep previous promises. "We will have a middle school," Foster said. "When Mayor Bloomberg says he wants his legacy to be education, it has to be a middle school in Highbridge."
Trevor Brown was one of several members of the Woodycrest Center for Human Development (WCHD)'s youth council on hand to support the middle school campaign.
Brown, now 16, told those gathered at the rally that when he was a middle-school student, he had to travel one hour by bus each morning.
"It's not fair," Brown said, "that other neighborhoods have middle schools and we don't have a middle school."
Photos by Roy Speller, Highbridge Horizon