After two and a half years of unwavering organizing, the Sunset Park community will see the construction of five new school buildings. 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 and are well-grounded in the community.
Over the past 10 months, members of Make Space, a grassroots parent led campaign and a project of Voces Ciudadanas, have reached out to over 400 residents, parents and children in our working class immigrant community to survey the priorities and recommendations for the new schools. The Sunset Park community demands the following:
Facilities that offer rich learning experiences to children and are assets to the entire community
Community members identified the need for maximizing investment in schools to bring new resources to children and the community at large. Our community demands that the new school buildings include:
- Rooftop gardens in each of the new schools that are used as learning gardens;
- At least one indoor pool in one of the new schools that is open to the public;
- Well-equipped and resourced dance, art and music rooms in all new schools;
- Ample recess areas and creative playgrounds to give children the opportunity for physical activity;
- Bright colorful spaces that include art that celebrates our community.
Culturally competent, multilingual school leadership that involves parents in decision-making
Parents recognized the importance of school leadership for shaping the experience of teachers, families and children in a school. Our community demands that in hiring school leadership, the DOE ensures that:
- Leaders are multilingual and culturally competent;
- Leaders have a proved track record of involving parents in decision-making and foster multiple forms of parent participation and will keep this commitment;
- School personnel at all levels must be culturally competent and schools must hire multilingual staff
Dual language schools that emphasize hands-on learning and arts integration such as the Reggio-Emilia model
Community members value raising bilingual children; they want to foster their home language while their children develop a robust command of English. Parents like the idea of integration of the arts and hands-on learning to all subjects as a positive development for all types of learners. Our community demands:
- The creation of dual language schools, piloting a trilingual program (Mandarin, Spanish & English);
- The adoption of hands-on interdisciplinary programming that encourages critical thinking and integrates the arts across all subjects such as the Reggio-Emilia model.
Zoning that alleviates overcrowding in Sunset Park schools and maintains its existing diversity
Lastly community members value the existing diversity of families in Sunset Park. Our community demands:
- That the new schools continue reflecting the existing diversity of the neighborhood;
- That rezoning contributes to alleviate the most overcrowded schools in the neighborhood.
We call on the Department of Education, District level leadership and the School Construction Authority to heed these powerful recommendations that highlight community needs and priorities. This report demonstrates that Sunset Park families are engaged, have opinions, and are willing to share their extensive knowledge on their school experiences.
Read the full report here: Vision for New Schools in Sunset Park