Closure, Not Renewal, For Three Schools in Brooklyn


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed the closure of three schools in Brooklyn that have been plagued with low enrollment and high staff turnover rates.

The plan to close the schools is a new one for the administration, which has typically focused on turning around struggling schools through the Renewal Schools program.

“Closing a school is always a difficult decision,” schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a statement.  “I am committed to holding all our schools accountable to meeting the needs of our students.  Schools with such a low enrollment cannot provide the robust education our students deserve. We will work closely with families and students at these schools to make sure they are supported and enroll in new schools that will better meet their needs and lead to better student outcomes.”

Farina has suggested that the schools be merged with other area schools in an effort to avoid any closures.

However, Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families for Excellent Schools, feels that even more schools should be closed, arguing that the plan still leaves tens of thousands of students left in failing schools around the area.

Three schools are slated for closure under the Department of Education’s plan at the end of the 2015-16 school year: Peace Academy Middle School, the School for the Urban Environment and Foundations Academy High School.  According to the DOE, the two middle schools had the lowest enrollment of all middle schools in the city during the 2014-15 school year.  Meanwhile, the high school held the fourth-lowest graduation rate in the city last year, reports Elizabeth Harris for The New York Times.

Officials said the schools showed difficulty with keeping students in addition to limited enrichment programs, which they say was a result of a lack of additional funding.  None of the three schools have the funding to provide students with state-mandated courses such as math, English, or science.

If the plan is approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, officials say the schools would be shut down rather than gradually phased out.

Students at all three schools were made aware of the situation in a letter this week.  One sixth grader at Urban Environment said she learned of the plan during a class visit by the school principal.  The DOE is also planning to email or call families to notify them of the proposals.

A seventh grader told Camille Bautista of DNAInfo that she was concerned about where she would be going to school next year, saying she enjoyed attending the small school and that she feels sorry for the teachers who will now have to look for new jobs.

In all, 24 teachers work at all three locations.  The DOE said they will work with staff and principals to find alternative placements.

The DOE will also be hosting individual town hall meetings for each school before the December break, with public hearings scheduled for February in order to allow for feedback on the proposals.

The city will be working to find schools for all students affected by the plan.  While middle school students will have guaranteed seats within their current district, high school students will be placed throughout the city.