WEST FARMS, the Bronx — Fourteen New York City public schools are slated for closure, and one is on course to be transitioned to a different status next school year, the Department of Education announced Monday morning. It's a radical change in a school system that has, on average, closed three schools a year since 2000, and which serves a total of 1.1 million students.
"Every school [closure proposal] was done for a different reason," said Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina at a Monday morning news conference. "I think we did this very very carefully. We did a lot of work on this."
Her assessment, though, was doubted by many families, teachers and students at the schools on the chopping block.
"Our students were crying during the morning today," said Rosindo Mejia, the parent coordinator at the High School for Health Careers and Sciences in Washington Heights. He's also the parent of two students at the school.
"This is the school that has [the most] parents involved in New York City," he said.
However, he pointed out, that while students were told about the proposed closure Monday morning, many parents weren't aware until they got home Monday night. They got a letter sent home.
Across four boroughs, nine schools that were on a list of academically challenged, or "Renewal List," schools will be closed. One middle school will become a high school and five other schools will be shut down.
A glaring name on the list of the five other schools was the Urban Assembly for Wildlife Conservation, near the Bronx Zoo. A student was fatally stabbed there.
"They're going to move [the students] somewhere else, and it might happen somewhere else," said Luna Dennis, the mother of Matthew McCree, a student who was fatally stabbed by classmate Abel Cedeno three months ago in classroom at the Urban Assembly School.
It was a possible case of self defense, but whatever the case, the school has been under a bright spotlight, and its inclusion on the list adds to the scrutiny, though not necessarily in a good way.
The closing of this school along with more than a dozen others "is an attempt to bury" the news, said attorney Sanford Rubinstein. Rubinstein represents the McCree's family, who are not pleased at all with the closure news.
"Fix the issue," said Dennis. At the school, on Mohegan Avenue, she said, the students are "in their comfort zone."
"Why take them out?" she asked. "Let them stay, not to let the Board of Ed look like they're doing something for us. They're not if they close the school."
For her part, Chancellor Fariña said that the decision was the result of extensive analysis and contemplation.
"This is really based on my going to the school and talking with all the present stakeholders," Fariña told PIX11 News.
She's visited give times since the fatal stabbing including as recently as last Friday.
The case remains under investigation. Accused suspect Abel Cedeno is free on $250,000 bail.
The “Renewal School” program aims to support long-struggling campuses by setting clear goals and providing targeted resources, department officials said.
School officials were advised each campus would be held accountable for “sustainable improvement,” and the nine schools selected to close have not seen sufficient improvement, department officials said Monday. Chancello Fariña hopes students at these schools will be better served at higher-performing schools.
Other schools faced closure for different reasons, including being too small, Fariña said.
One “Renewal School” will be truncated as part of a plan to revamp the high school’s arts program, and five others will be merged with other campuses. In addition, 21 schools part of the program that have seen “strong and steady gains” will be designated “Rise Schools.” The remaining 46 “Renewal Schools” will receive increased support and oversight.
“Rise School” is a new designation that includes schools meeting at least 67 percent of their benchmarks, are not on the state’s priority list and have demonstrated a sustainable school improvement structure, department officials said. The campuses will continue to receive targeted support and face monitoring, but with more autonomy.
All impacted families should have received a letter Monday and phone call from a Department of Education staffer explaining the proposal, department officials said. Specific dates and times for community meetings will be offered in that letter and phone call.
Each school proposed for closure, truncation or merger will hold at least one community meeting by Jan. 15, 2018, led by the superintendent or a member of their team at the school, officials said.
Proposals for schools facing closure and truncation will be posted in January, and voted on Feb. 28, 2018. If approved, closures would take place at the end of the current school year, and the truncated school would no longer serve students in the truncating grades after the end of the current school year.
Proposals for schools facing merger will be posted by the beginning of February, and voted on March 21, 2018. Schools would be merged for the 2018-19 school year, if approved.Nine
“Renewal School” proposed to be closed:
Five schools not part of the program proposed to be closed:
Five “Renewal School” proposed for merger:
Renewal School” proposed for truncation:
21 schools to be designated “Rise Schools:”