Van Buren Rally Shows Split On Co-Location

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

Last week, hundreds of kids turned out to scream, hold up signs and march outside of Martin Van Buren High School, protesting a proposed co-location for their school.

“MVB don’t want to share! Mayor Bloomberg, he don’t care!” students and faculty shouted, holding up signs as they surrounded the elected officials who had turned out for the rally, including its organizer, State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). The Dept. of Education is working to put a Career and Technical Education early college and career high school (also known as P-Tech) inside the walls of Martin Van Buren.

Students and faculty march in front of Martin Van Buren High School, protesting a proposed co-location by the DOE.  Photo by Joe Marvilli

Students and faculty march in front of Martin Van Buren High School, protesting a proposed co-location by the DOE. Photo by Joe Marvilli

A couple of students were given the chance to speak at the press conference during the rally, where they strongly expressed their desire for MVB to stay the same.

“We’re going to lose almost 20 percent of our good teachers,” Bree Boojraj said. “We’re not going to have the high-tech things that we want. The other school is going to have it and we’re not going to have it.”

But not all parts of the community are against the idea.

Civic leaders from the Bellerose Commonwealth Civic Association, Bell Park Manor Terrace Co-op, Lost Community Civic Association, Queens Colony Civic Association, Royal Ranch Homeowners Association, Bellerose Hillside Civic Association, Glen Oaks Village Co-op, North Bellerose Civic Association and Queens Village Civic Association voted unanimously in support of the co-location, saying it would help local children go to a school near where they live.

While the release praised the work principal Sam Sochet had been doing since he came to the school in July 2012, it said that the change is not happening fast enough and the co-location may help with it.

“Decades of failure have transformed MVB from a school having deep community roots into one where 96 percent of its student population comes from outside of the local community. The P-Tech co-location initiative attempts to fast-track the turnaround of MVB,” the statement said. “Local parents and their children simply don’t have the luxury to wait more years for MVB to transform”

Avella disagreed, saying that the co-located school would take students from all over the City, increasing the overcrowding in the neighborhood.

“There’s no guarantee the local kids will benefit from this program. It’ll worsen the overcrowding instead of helping it,” he said. “While I understand their wish that this is something for the local neighborhood, it will not be.”

The high school’s student population is around 2,200. About 25 percent of student enrollment will be reduced if the co-location goes into effect.

“This P-Tech school might be a great program to put in Martin Van Buren High School, under the leadership of Sam Sochet,” Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said. “But the DOE doesn’t talk to us, they don’t talk to the community.”

The co-location is one of many that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the DOE are attempting to push through in the administration’s final months. The co-location would take place for the 2014-2015 school year and will be voted on at the Oct. 30 meeting of the Panel for Education Policy.

“Across the City, we’ve transformed the landscape with our new school options – and we’ve been nationally recognized by President Obama for our visionary offerings,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said. “This will be a new option that will deliver great outcomes for children, and we’re confident it will be in very high demand.”

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.