A slew of Brooklyn school closings coming up for vote

February 1, 2013 Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The fate of 21 schools in Brooklyn – closing, phasing out or opening – will be decided at the March 11 meeting of the Mayor’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP), to be held at Brooklyn Tech High School.

The changes range from the closure of Freedom Academy High School in Downtown Brooklyn to the co-location of a charter school — The New American Academy Charter School –with three existing schools in East Flatbush.

In many cases, the Department of Education (DOE) is phasing out one school and replacing it with two or more schools.

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Struggling elementary school P.S. 174 Dumont in East New York is one the city proposes to phase out. Plans call for phasing in two new schools — a new elementary school and a new middle school — in the building.

Likewise, the city wants to phase out J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero School, bringing in two new district middle schools, M.S. 661 and M.S. 662, in its place.

Sheepshead Bay High School would be phased out under the plan, and would be replaced with a new high school (H.S. 611) and a new transfer school (H.S. 630). Sheepshead Bay shares the building with three other schools as well.

Some of the moves and co-locations require a diagram to figure out.

One complex series of transactions involves the UFT Charter School, which is presently divided into two locations: grades K to 5 at building K292 and grades 6 to 12 at building K166, which they share with J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin. The city plans to break up the upper school and move grades 6 to 8 from their present location to building K292, where it would join the lower grades. The city also plans to co-locate another school, J.H.S. 292, into the same building.

UFT’s grades 9 to 12 would stay where they are at K292. The space left vacant by UFT’s grades 6 to 8 would be filled by two new schools: a new middle school (M.S. 654), which serves grade 6 to 8, and also a new Achievement First Charter High School 2 – raising interesting space questions down the road.

Many closings come after years of efforts by teachers and administration to improve their kids’ performance.

In the case of P.S. 174 Dumont, DOE acknowledges, “Staff and families have worked hard to improve the school.” They add, “DOE has provided considerable support to P.S. 174: supporting school leadership; providing resources to increase the rigor of student work; offering supports to strengthen classroom instruction” and more. “Unfortunately, our best efforts have not turned around the school.”

If students perform poorly on tests at P.S. 174, it’s not because of lack of effort by many of the teachers. At least seven of them have consistently and successfully begged for money for books and materials for their classrooms on the fund-raising website Donors Choose.

One first-grade teacher, who successfully raised $249 for literacy equipment, described her class in this way:

“Some of my students live in temporary housing, or low income houses. Some live in single parent homes with little resources to help support their education. Other students are English Language Learners. My school is a small school that has limited resources itself. Acquiring copy paper, CD players and markers is as hard as puling teeth. When our equipment, radios or head phones break we scrounge around trying to find replacement equipment. It is frustrating and aggravating.”

Another said about her class, “From the outset, my students often bring with them the pressures of poverty, broken homes, split families, street violence and peer pressure.”

DOE will be taking comments about the changes until March 10. The March 11, PEP meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Technical High School located at 29 Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn.

More details about the planned changes can be found at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/leadership/PEP/publicnotice/2012-2013/Mar112013Proposals.htm

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