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Surge of migrant kids at NYC school could push special needs school out of shared building

Private school pushed out by migrant kids.
West Prep Academy is about to get booted from the West Side building it shares with PS 145 -- thanks to an influx of migrant kids.

A space crunch at a Manhattan school building sparked by a massive influx of migrant kids is likely to force a city special needs school out of its home — and into an inadequate 127-year-old site.

West Prep Academy, a 170-student school on the West Side serving primarily children with disabilities and special needs, is being overrun by a surge in enrollment at PS 145, which shares the same 105th Street schoolhouse — driven largely by the recent wave of migrant kids flooding the school system.

“We’re at a point where now parents are not feeling heard,” one academy parent told The Post. “I see all of these parents expressing these real concerns for why this is not going to work for their kids.

“We don’t agree with this change because we are actually, as teachers and parents and advocates, looking at the actual educational and developmental impact on the children with regard to this change.”

The building at 150 W. 105th Street houses PS 145 and the special-needs West Prep Academy, but a space crunch fueled by an influx of migrant children is forcing the academy to be relocated nearby. Robert Miller
The building at 150 W. 105th Street houses PS 145 and the special-needs West Prep Academy, but a space crunch fueled by an influx of migrant children is forcing the academy to be relocated nearby. Robert Miller

West Prep’s dilemma, first reported by the Daily News earlier this month, comes as more than 30,000 migrant children have been hurled into Big Apple public schools — part of the migrant crisis that has enveloped the five boroughs over the past three years.

City Education Department officials are offering the academy a new landing spot, but the only option the school has been given is an aging nearby building with no outdoor space, a gym that doubles as an auditorium and no adequate accommodations for its disabled and special needs kids.

That building, once the home of the now-shuttered Ascension School on 108th Street, would be the academy’s new home for the 2024-2025 school year — despite having no upgrades or modifications.

“It’s disingenuous to say that they’re looking out for the best interest of students and things of that nature when you’re willing to jeopardize kids’ academic futures,” Jibil Saleem, a sixth-grade teacher at the school, told The Post Monday.

“They kind of came in, they looked, they basically determined that both schools are working within a footprint,” Saleem said. “That was last year, and then coming into this year it was just essentially like I said — we were blindsided.

“We didn’t know that they somehow looked at the report and convinced people higher up that we still need to go.”

PS 145 is growing thanks to a surge of migrant kids, forcing a special-needs school it shares space with to get relocated. Robert Miller
PS 145 is growing thanks to a surge of migrant kids, forcing a special-needs school it shares space with to get relocated. Robert Miller

City education officials declined to comment on the issue on Monday.

Both PS 145 and West Prep are already in cramped quarters at their current building — and have their share of challenges to go along with the space crunch.

One in three students enrolled in the public school are homeless, with two-thirds black or Latino.

The academy, meanwhile, has programs geared to teaching children with autism, with 90% of its pupils either black or Latino, and 40% of them with disabilities.

But at a time when the children of asylum seekers are beefing up enrollment at New York City public schools — which had been declining in recent years — education officials say PS 145 now needs more elbow room and West Prep has to get out of the way.

The shuttered Ascension School, the suggested new home of West Prep Academy, is a 127-year-old building with no amenities for special needs kids. Desheania Andrews / NYPost
The shuttered Ascension School, the suggested new home of West Prep Academy, is a 127-year-old building with no amenities for special needs kids. Desheania Andrews / NYPost

The school has been at the Bloomingdale building for 13 years and has seen its enrollment dip from over 200 in 2018 to the current number of 168, according to city education department records.

PS 145, meanwhile, saw its student population inch upward from 339 in 2019 to 349 for the 2020-2021 school year — before jumping to 382 for the current school year, the data show.

West Prep administrators said they understand the realities but are uneasy with the hasty decision to shove them into a new home that is ill-suited for their students — and, at minimum, are asking for a delay in the decision for about a year.

“At West Prep Academy we just want a building that is equitable to the one we have or a better facility,” said a magnet school specialist who asked to be identified only as Ms. Costa.

The auditorium at PS 145 was the site of a town hall meeting in January about the plan to move the special-needs West End Academy out its home of 13 years. Desheania Andrews / NYPost
The auditorium at PS 145 was the site of a town hall meeting in January about the plan to move the special-needs West End Academy out its home of 13 years. Desheania Andrews / NYPost

“We just want this to be done the right way,” she said. “Helping one group of students should never hurt another.”

At a town hall meeting in January, parents and students packed the auditorium to give city education officials an earful — but it seemed to have no impact on the looming decision.

“Some of those children who normally wouldn’t speak on a microphone because of their special needs voiced their disgust and frustration,” West Prep Parents Association President Tyi Ellis told The Post.

“They know what they would be losing,” he said. “They know that they wouldn’t have an auditorium separate from a gym. And those things are really important when children have multiple needs.”

Rebecca Moore, a registered nurse who has two boys at PS 145, said it should never have come to this.

“Two schools should have never been placed in the same building to begin with,” Moore said. “There are too many vacancies throughout the city to ever let this happen.”