Make Space for Quality Schools in Sunset Park, a campaign made up of parents and organizations to demand greater accountability on the education front, held a forum at Sunset Park Library, 5108 Fourth Avenue, where local education advocates released the results of an extensive parent survey on the design and construction of multiple new area schools.
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, parents, students and local residents attended the Saturday, February 10 meeting to discuss the community’s desires for these schools.
“There are five new buildings coming to Sunset Park and some additions to other schools are coming,” said the group’s co-founder Javier Salamanca. “Make Space did a survey of over three different communities in an outreach — over 400 Sunset Park parents — on what they would like to see in the schools so we’re able to have some community ideas for the new schools. So we had a conference and a workshop, and participants in the survey whom we had interviewed were able to talk about some of the things they prioritized and why.”
Highlights included enhanced language programs, an increase in outdoor space, and less overcrowding.
“The community is largely Latino and Chinese so some parents said they were interested in a trilingual program where children can learn Chinese, Spanish and English,” Salamanca said. “They thought it’d be an asset and something that could be practically used in the community. It would be a bridge to the communities that sometimes are separated.”
Rooftop gardens and green space for educational and recreational use are also important for parents.
“Because there is so much overcrowding in Sunset Park, not all students get a chance to be outside, so a lot of parents look for rooftop gardens as way to enhance that and give kids an opportunity to be in nature and outside within the confines of a school. That’s something important to the community,” Salamanca said. “Art classes are important.” Also key, he said, are libraries and longer recesses.
Collaboration between administration and parents is also an important issue.
“They want principals open to parents’ input. Also, parents have had negative experiences getting information from schools,” he said. Increased diversity among staff members would be a plus, he said
Make Space wants to bring this information to District 15, the CEC, and to the School Construction Authority.
“We have the backing of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and various organizations within Sunset,” Salamanca said. “We hope community input is valued and recognized and acted on by the powers that be.”
A community forum in May of last year started out the process of community engagement.
“Menchaca wants to work with city agencies to maximize the resources for our community,” Salamanca said. “A lot of parents want an indoor pool for winter activities and to help battle obesity. They want a way for the city to bring these things to this project. He’s supportive of our community and maintaining what’s available.”
“Given the disparities in District 15, it is critical that the new schools are built with substantive community input so that the new schools truly address the educational needs of Sunset Park children,” Menchaca wrote on the 38th Council District Facebook page. “Make Space for Schools has conducted over the last 10 months intensive community outreach, in-depth interviews and held informational sessions with hundreds of parents and students in our working-class, immigrant community. The Make Space for Schools Community Visions Report, highlights the priorities for five new elementary school buildings.”
To read the report, visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bz4eMYv6efqmZ2lOelVVUHBjaDQ/view.