Proposed Re-siting in M534

March 8, 2024

Support the proposal to re-site M.S. 421 West Prep Academy to the M534 Ascension School building

Esteemed Panel for Educational Policy members,

We are parents at P.S. 145 The Bloomingdale School, writing in support of the proposal to re-site the currently co-located M.S. 421 West Prep Academy to the M534 Ascension School building.

We strongly believe the current proposal is the best path forward as P.S. 145 students do not have the amount of space that is legally required for them to be provided the free and appropriate public education to which they are entitled. At the same time, it is vital that the Department of Education takes the concerns voiced by West Prep seriously, and commits to upgrading the Ascension building to meet the needs of their students - many of whom were formerly students at P.S. 145.

P.S. 145 is now over-enrolled with approximately 510 students in a space allocated for 438 students. This is a result of our school’s commitment to serving our community. We are currently at 116% capacity and state-mandated class size reductions will only make our space issue worse.

Our school is what every New York City public school should aspire to be. At P.S. 145 every race, ethnicity, religion, economic background and disability is embraced. Our diversity is a way for children to learn empathy, and to get along and celebrate each others’ differences. Of our 510 students, 55% are Hispanic, 20% are Black, 20% are white and 5% are multi-racial. Importantly, we have 400 children (80%) who are economically disadvantaged. Of these, 175 students (34%) live in temporary housing. We also have intellectual diversity with 100 students (20%) with disabilities and many more with other learning needs.

Over the last several years, New York City has seen an influx of refugees from countries in Central and South America, and from Ukraine, Russia and former Soviet Republics. As our school has Spanish and Russian Dual language programs, these newly arrived families have been welcomed here (see 60 Minutes story that includes how P.S. 145 is helping these families). Since 2022, our school has grown by 108 new students from Central and South America and 37 students from Ukraine, Russia and the former Soviet republics who are refugees and asylum seekers.

P.S. 145 leadership and staff saw these newest New Yorkers not as a problem but as an opportunity 1) to help some of the most vulnerable students in our city, 2) to model how to be leaders and helpers in our community and 3) to model for our children the best of what it means to be a New Yorker and an American. P.S. 145 staff and teachers have made the school a home for these vulnerable children and their families, providing them with a sense of security and so much more. As a result, P.S. 145 has grown not only in population but in empathy, richness of diverse cultures, equity, and pedagogical outcomes.

The growth in our student population however, has had serious consequences. Neither P.S. 145 nor West Prep has a library and has not had one in over 2 years. A library is essential for an elementary school, and even more so for a Title I school with 80% of students below the poverty line. In lieu of any other option, the difficult decision was made to re-purpose the library into a non-private space for more than a dozen service providers, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, English as a New Language and many other services that are legally required to be administered in a private setting to comply with student privacy and health privacy laws. This decision was necessary to prioritize classrooms for the use of at-capacity and over-capacity classes of students.

Our school serves 91 students with special needs: 91 Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) students, including 12 in Related Service Only, 16 in SETSS, 38 in ICT, 25 in special classes, including 6 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. These students are currently receiving essential services including counseling and speech therapy in makeshift spaces such as closets, the library room, and the cafeteria, where privacy for sensitive discussions is non-existent. The urgency to provide appropriate and private spaces for our special needs students cannot be overstated. With 17 initial referrals pending, 16 of which are likely to require IEPs, our total number of special needs students will soon reach 107. This status quo at our school is not legal, and can not be allowed to continue.

Additionally, P.S. 145 has lost its music room during the 2022-2023 school year as well as the TV studio room for a TV studio program funded by a magnet grant. Both of these programs that have been on hiatus for 2 years importantly provided all children, but especially those with special needs, a joyfully creative outlet and a counter to their academic learning in an economically stratified city. These rooms are now being used to provide ENL services for the children that need them and a 3-K program that was started at the request of the DOE 3 years ago, which has over 100 families on the waitlist.

P.S. 145 also doesn’t have access to the building’s gym and the auditorium until the late morning every day, as these are used by West Prep Academy, which also uses the auditorium in the afternoons. We also no longer have adequate office space for P.S. 145 staff and many of our coordinators are sharing a cramped closet space in lieu of an office.

Providing P.S. 145 with the entirety of the M145 Bloomingdale School building at 105th Street will provide the necessary space to accommodate all of our children including the most vulnerable students, and will allow our Principal Dr. Garcia and the P.S. 145 staff to continue to model the behaviors and leadership for our children that we should all aspire to.

We urge you to vote in favor of the proposal to re-site West Prep Academy to the Ascension School building.

Thank you,

SLT and PTA of P.S. 145 The Bloomingdale School

Mashura Akilova

Anna Azvolinsky

Lauren Balaban

Adam Costello

Susan Fulwiler

Olga Gashinsky

Kristin Holmes

Enzo Perazic


PTA Co-Presidents