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Education Panel Signs off on De Blasio's First School Closures

Education Panel Signs off on De Blasio's First School Closures

The Panel for Educational Policy approved the closing of three schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the first three of 22 schools Mayor Bill de Blasio has moved to close, according to Chalkbeat New York.

The three schools closing are Foundations Academy, a high school, Peace Academy Middle School, and The School for the Urban Environment, also a middle school. In addition, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced plans to close the Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies (FLAGS) in the Bronx at the end of this school year.

Low enrollment and a poor graduation rate are cited as reasons for the closures. Peace Academy enrolled just 12 sixth-graders this year, and Foundations Academy enrolled just 113 students. They also struggled academically. While Urban Environment, Peace Academy and FLAGS were a part of the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, no students passed the state English exam at Urban Environment over the last two years.

At Peace Academy, just two percent of students were proficient in English and seven percent of students were proficient in math, while Foundations Academy had the city’s fourth-lowest high school graduation rate. FLAGS four-year graduation rate has been dipping slightly and its enrollment has been in freefall over the last three years. The school is serving just 101 students this year.

It did not make sense to invest more in these schools because they are too small to sustain the kinds of services that are necessary to help students learn, Fariña said. “It is not fair to put students in schools without giving them services. If you don’t have an art teacher, you don’t have a guidance counselor, you don’t have a homeroom monitor and things, then it’s not really a school.”

The city’s decision was met with opposition from activists who fought school closures under the Bloomberg administration and who have supported the de Blasio administration’s education initiatives. They asked why schools aren’t being given the full three years to improve through the Renewal program.

“There has [been] no clarity around what sparks the closure of a Renewal school,” Natasha Capers, a coordinator with the Coalition for Educational Justice, said in a statement. “The culture of fear that dominated struggling schools during the previous administration does not nourish the difficult process of school improvement.”

The panel also approved two consolidations, Peace and Diversity Academy into The Metropolitan High School in the Bronx’s District 12, and Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration into Brighter Choice Community School in District 16.

The city has also closed one low-performing charter school, and announced plans this year to close three more.

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Author: Linda DiProperzio has written extensively on parenting issues for Parents, American Baby, Parenting, and Family Circle, among others. She lives in New York with her husband and two sons. See More

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