In Document, Peek at City Plans to Replace Schools
Published: January 13, 2011
Suzanne DeChillo/The New York TimesI.S. 195 on West 133rd Street in Manhattan is among the 26 schools New York City has recommended for closing because of poor performance.
It is planning to place an innovative new technology-themed school, which will go up to Grade 14 and is supported by I.B.M., in Paul Robeson High School, a closing Brooklyn school that advocates have been trying to save for its work educating at-risk youths.
And the department plans to move the West Prep Academy middle school from West 77th Street to P.S. 145, an elementary school on 105th Street that had been considered as the site for a new charter school founded by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman.
The revelations are among dozens contained in a Department of Education planning document obtained by The New York Times. Over several pages, it outlines which schools are slotted to replace the 26 schools the city has recommended for closing because of poor performance, as well as planned locations for roughly two dozen additional charter and traditional schools. The information, which was current as of Jan. 5, was scheduled to be released slowly over eight Fridays in the coming weeks and could still change.
WikiLeaks it is not, but news of the proposed location of new schools, particularly those that will replace failing traditional schools, is generally a tightly choreographed process, in part because of the contentiousness of the issue.
After a suit led to the reversal of 19 approved school closings last year, the city has had to take great care in carrying out its moves, and said it had planned consultations with local leaders before these plans were announced.
“This is a draft, internal planning document,” said Natalie Ravitz, a schools spokeswoman. “It is incredibly disappointing and irresponsible that someone took it upon themselves to share an internal, draft document with the press before we could discuss these matters with school communities and elected officials.”
The moves will still be subject to public hearings at each location, as well as a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy, a mayor-controlled body, in March.
Charter school operators, who are waiting to hear where their schools will be placed, said Thursday that they were surprised to hear of the proposals.
Community Roots Charter School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for example, one of the city’s most popular charter schools, has received permission to expand to a middle school. Its proposed location, according to the document, is P.S. 44 in Brooklyn, though it does not specify if the entire school, or only the middle school, will be moved there from its current shared space at P.S. 67.
“We would prefer to have the entire school all in one building, but we haven’t been told anything,” said Allison Keil, a co-director, who added that she did know that P.S. 44 was among several options under discussion.
The plan to place two new charter schools run by New Visions for Public Schools at Kennedy High School in the Bronx may be among the most controversial. The huge building has been split into five other small schools, and the 1,000 students who attend the part of the school still called Kennedy are mostly low-income, native Spanish speakers from the surrounding neighborhood.
In December, city officials met with a group of local council members, who said they were promised a public meeting before a proposal was issued. The charter school plan was supposed to be announced on Friday, but Department of Education officials told neighborhood officials on Thursday once it became clear that the plans had been leaked.
“This is not something that we agreed to,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, whose district sends students to Kennedy. “We were supposed to be convening a meeting with the parents.”
In Brooklyn, Councilman Al Vann said he still opposed the closing of Robeson but was not opposed to the I.B.M. model — under which students can earn the equivalent of an associate’s degree and graduates will be given job considerations — if that fight failed.
But other defenders of Robeson were not soothed.
“Why not use all those resources they will pour into this new school to help us?” said Stefanie Siegel, the head of Robeson’s school leadership team.