University Heights Secondary School is currently located in this building on BCC's campus. (File photo by R. Thomas)
In December, Bronx Community College asked University Heights Secondary School to vacate the building it occupies on the college’s campus by the end of the school year.
The Department of Education has since proposed moving the school to Morrisania, where it would take over a section of South Bronx High School.
Tonight, at a meeting in Staten Island, the city's Panel for Educational Policy will vote on whether to approve the relocation.
Students, parents and teachers at the school have been critical of the move. They happen to like the current location, and the school’s grades are among the best in the west Bronx.
“Coming here is not like any regular school,” Paola Pimentel, a senior, previously told the Mount Hope Monitor. “Once you walk into campus, it feels like a different atmosphere. There are no metal detectors; there are trees. It’s like coming to a second home.”
Teachers and parents worry that Morrisania neighborhood isn’t safe, and point out that students, most of whom live in the west Bronx, would be forced to take buses or the subway to get there. They worry that students’ grades will dip, and instead of being a success story, University Heights Secondary School will be anything but.
At rallies and public hearings, the school community has made its feelings clear, but the DOE continues to the believe that moving the school into the South Bronx High School is the best option.
One local developer disagrees. Frank DeLeonardis, the owner of the new – and currently unrented - four-story building on Jerome Avenue at East 179th Street, would welcome the school as a tenant. Recently he gave principal Hazel Joseph Roseboro a tour and said she was impressed. (Speaking today, Roseboro said she couldn’t comment, citing DOE protocol.)
DeLeonardis says the building would be perfect for a school because it’s close public transportation, and is “unfinished” inside, which would allow the DOE to customize it. Plus, it's less than a mile from BCC.
Greg Faulkner, Fernando Cabrera’s chief-of-staff, said he sees DeLeonardis’ building as a “viable alternative,” but that the DOE hasn’t been willing to listen to alternatives or involve the community in the decision process. “I’m really disappointed, but it’s typical of the DOE,” he said.
Only rarely does the Panel for Educational Policy go against the DOE recommendations. “I feel like it is a done deal,” Faulkner said.
Tonight’s meeting is being held at the Michael J. Petrides School at 715 Ocean Terrace. It starts at 6 p.m.
UPDATE - 3:30 p.m.: Faulkner called back to say that he just reached out to DOE asking them to postpone tonight's vote, so that the possibility of moving the school into DeLeonardis' building could be further investigated. They declined, but said even if the Panel approved the relocation, other feasible alternatives would still be considered if bought to the table at a later date. We'll call the department's press office for more information.