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Report: Co-located schools may violate students’ rights

Many co-located city schools have inadequate facilities, oversized classes, restricted course offerings and insufficient student supports that violate state education laws, according to a new report by the Campaign for Educational Equity.

The campaign is calling for a full-scale investigation into potential violations of student rights at all co-located schools and for the Department of Education to impose a moratorium on new co-locations until violations are remedied.

Housed at Columbia Teachers College and headed by the attorney who brought the original Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, the Campaign for Educational Equity says the inadequacies found in the report are not only a result of budget cuts but also of the rapid expansion of co-locations.

The hundreds of new schools launched under former mayor Michael Bloomberg resulted in an explosion of shared facilities. By 2013, according to the report, 63 percent of the city’s 1,818 schools were co-located, most commonly in buildings that had not added any square footage to accommodate the additional school. One hundred and fifteen charters account for 10 percent of co-locations; the other 90 percent are district schools.

But co-location “often exacerbates resource inadequacies and further limits already under-resourced schools’ ability to provide a sound basic education,” the CEE charges.

In a closely examined sample of 38 high-needs NYC schools, the report found that:

  • Students in a number of schools had no access to a library;
  • They had limited access to an auditorium, gym or yard;
  • Some schools provided adaptive physical therapy or physical and occupational therapy in the hallway;
  • Specialized rooms such as pools, dance studios or weight rooms were off-limits to students in their own school buildings;
  • Many middle and high schools could not provide required art classes, much less a sequence of classes in arts, band or orchestra;
  • Schools lacked staff and space for science labs, foreign languages, AP classes or career and technology programs;
  • Closets or storage areas served as rooms for special education, academic intervention services or English as a Second Language instruction;
  • Some schools changed student IEPs for lack of adequate space and resources;
  • Without the available classrooms, class sizes rose above contractual maximums.

Principals of co-located schools told CEE they spend 20 percent to 80 percent of their time in any given week managing building-related issues, such as space-sharing, security, and managing tensions between students in different schools in the building.

The CEE said its report should spur a full-scale investigation into potential violations of student rights at all co-located schools. Among its recommendations, it calls for the Department of Education to impose a moratorium on new co-locations until violations are remedied.

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