Bed-Stuy School Opens New $400,000 Science Lab One Year After Closure Scare

By Paul DeBenedetto on May 2, 2013 12:21pm 

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary school, which just one year ago was in danger of closing, cut the ribbon this week on a new state-of-the-art science lab thanks to a $400,000 capital funding grant.

The new lab — which features new Apple desktop computers, a smart board with projector and a new color printer alongside additional storage space for burners, beakers and test tubes — combined two rooms in the school, and seats roughly 30 children, P.S. 256 Principal Sharyn Hemphill said.

"When we cut the ribbon and walked in the room, the kids' faces said it all," Hemphill said. "'This is for us?'"

The new lab comes only a year after the school, at 114 Kosciuszko St., was in danger of closing. A 2011 Department of Education progress report listed P.S. 256 as a failing school, dropping from a C the year before

In October of that year, angry parents and school administrators protested the would-be closure, saying the school was simply struggling to keep up with budget cuts. Those cuts resulted in the loss of P.S. 256's art and reading teachers, as well as the shrinking of the school's tutoring program, according to a report on GothamSchools.org at the time.

"It's very scary," Hemphill said. "You don't know what the next year will bring. You don't know if you're going to exist and function in the neighborhood anymore."

"You worry about the kids in the neighborhood, where will they go?" she added. "Parents count on their neighborhood schools."

Hemphill said she immediately got to work on the problem, cracking down on poor attendance and creating Saturday and after-school sessions to help kids catch up, which in turn improved test scores.

When last year's DOE progress reports were released, P.S. 256 made the jump from an F all the way to a B, with improvements across the board, and the school was taken off closing schools.

"Everybody stumbles throughout their life," Hemphill said. "We proved to them the next year that our kids could do well."

Now Hemphill said the school has begun their search for a new licensed science teacher to run the lab in next school year.

Meanwhile, the students at P.S. 256 can enjoy their new science lab without wondering whether-or-not it will be there come next year.

"We've been connected to the school," student Daniela Inoa told News 12 Brooklyn at the lab's opening. "It has very sentimental values and memories, and I just didn't want to lose it."

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