The school building at 420 E. 12th St. was evacuated on Sept. 24. Photo by Sam Spokony
BY SAM SPOKONY | Students from two East Village schools who were displaced a month ago after an exterior wall in their shared building began to buckle will have to wait until at least February to return, city officials said last week.
In an Oct. 15 letter to the parents of students at Girls Prep Lower East Side Middle School and East Side Community High School, Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm called the necessary construction work a “major undertaking,” adding that the building’s east wall will need be rebuilt piece by piece and additional work will need to be done on the west wall.
The two schools had shared space in the 89-year-old building at 420 E. 12th St. They were evacuated on Sept. 24 after it became apparent that the east wall was separating from the building. Teachers and students had received no prior warning about the building’s condition, and were forced to leave in minutes.
Following the evacuation, the Department of Education initially estimated that the repairs would take three to four weeks.
Both schools have since been relocated. Girls Prep is currently housed at the Bayard Taylor School on the Upper East Side — more than 60 blocks away from E. 12th St. East Side Community High School, which contains both middle and high school grades, has been split in two. The middle school students and teachers are currently at P.S. 1 in Chinatown, while their high school counterparts are at Norman Thomas High School on E. 33rd St.
East Side Principal Mark Federman remained optimistic in a letter he sent out to parents following D.O.E.’s announcement. He wrote that, while it would be ideal to be able to bring both divisions of his school back together under one interim roof, the immediate focus must remain on sustaining productive classroom learning in the students’ current environments.
“After all, it is not our building that makes us great, it is our incredible community of students, staff and families,” Federman wrote, although he also added that “we all deeply miss our building and this has been hard for us.”
Two weeks ago this newspaper reported that, according to public city records, D.O.E. did not act to fix structural damage to the E. 12 St. building that was noted by the Department of Buildings, when it issued a Class 2 violation — categorized as a “major” violation — for the building’s cracked and crumbling exterior in March.
In her letter to the schools’ parents, Grimm characterized The Villager’s report as “misinformation” — without actually naming this newspaper — and said the March violation was not related to the area of the building that has since failed.
The text of the March violation stated that D.O.E. had failed to maintain the exterior facade of 420 E. 12th St., that there were large cracks in the roof’s exterior, and that coping stones on the northwest corner of the facade had begun to shift.
After claiming that those particular elements were not related to any necessary repairs to the building, Grimm wrote that D.O.E. is taking extra time to renovate the west wall because of the “potential for future issues” with that wall’s masonry and brick facade.