[EDLING:118] Brooklyn: more objections to Arabic school
Francis M Hult
fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 15 19:13:57 UTC 2007
> May 15, 2007
> Now, Parents in Boerum Hill Raise Objections to an Arabic School
> By JULIE BOSMAN
> The Department of Education stood on the firing line last night at a
> contentious PTA meeting attended by more than 100 Brooklyn parents whose
> schools are set to share space with the Khalil Gibran International
> Academy, a new dual-language school that will teach Arabic language and
> culture. Parents at the Math and Science Exploratory School, a middle
> school, and the Brooklyn High School of the Arts complained that the
> Khalil Gibran school, scheduled to open at 345 Dean Street in Boerum Hill
> in September, would take up too much space and disrupt their programs.
> Garth Harries, chief executive of the Office of New Schools at the
> Education Department, fielded questions from parents, promising that the
> school would occupy space in the building for only two years.
> You keep saying theres room here, said one parent, to thunderous applause.
> Where exactly is this room you all are talking about? Whats the rush?
> another parent said. Why do we have to feel like this is being shoved down
> our throats? By department guidelines, there is no space problem: With a
> capacity of 1,900 students, the building has room to accommodate all three
> schools. The projected fall enrollment for the Brooklyn High School of
> the Arts is 762, and the projected enrollment for the Math and Science
> school is 458, a total of 1,220 students. Even if the Khalil Gibran school
> fills its 60 seats, down from a planned 80, the building would still be
> more than 600 students under capacity.
> It was the second time this month that a group of angry parents in
> Brooklyn objected to sharing space with the Khalil Gibran school, which
> would enroll only sixth graders at first. Ten days ago, the department
> scuttled its plan to put it in the building that houses Public School 282,
> an elementary school in Park Slope, after parents protested over sharing
> space and after a columnist for The New York Sun called the school a
> madrassa, an Islamic religious school, and suggested that citizens carry
> torches and surround City Hall to prevent its opening. But this time, the
> Department of Education seems determined to tamp down the rebellion. We
> are not looking for alternatives for Khalil Gibran, said Melody Meyer, a
> spokeswoman who attended last nights meeting. The school will open as
> Mr. Harries took a verbal beating from parents, furious at what they said
> were broken promises from the department to update a science laboratory
> and other facilities. I cant sit here and justify when commitments were
> not fulfilled in the past, he said at one point. Debbie Almontaser, the
> principal of Khalil Gibran, spoke briefly, promising that the school would
> have a standard college preparatory curriculum. It is going to be quite
> rigorous and challenging, she said. Since first announcing the school in
> February, the Education Department has defended the project, which first
> appeared ambitious, even idealistic, but has since been bogged down by bad
> publicity and furious parents.
> By one measure, the school appears well on its way to a September opening.
> Ms. Almontaser has already ordered a library of Arabic-language textbooks
> from Scholastic, mainly Arabic translations of American childrens books,
> Ms. Meyer said. The president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi
> Weingarten, has pledged her support for the school. And despite the
> considerable pressure it is under, the department yesterday continued to
> insist that the school would open in September in the Dean Street
> building. The department has promised that Khalil Gibran will take up
> three classrooms in the building two for instruction and one for office
> space. But if it does open, as the department maintains it will, the
> Khalil Gibran school may struggle to fill its available seats. As of
> yesterday, no students were enrolled. And with only weeks left before
> classes are dismissed for the summer, most fifth graders already knew
> which school they would attend in the fall.
> The department has sent letters to parents of fifth graders across the
> city, listing Khalil Gibran as an available school for incoming sixth
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