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Chelsea Arts Middle School Likely to Expand with High School in U. Square

 The Clinton School for Writers and Artists will expand into a high school if it get a C grade or higher.
Clinton School for Writers and Artists Expanding
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UNION SQUARE — A popular arts-based middle school in Chelsea will likely expand into a high school when the program moves to Union Square in the fall of 2015, the Department of Education revealed this week.

That means students of Clinton School for Writers and Artists, one of few public middle schools in the city to focus on creative arts, will soon have the option of staying on through high school, after parents advocated for the expansion for months.

“Over the last decade, as we’ve created more new high-performing school options than ever before, we’ve doubled down on schools that have been delivering great outcomes for their students,” said Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Department of Education.

“The potential expansion of this school is just another step in our effort to bring the once broken system we inherited into a national model for reform.”

If the plan is approved, the new space at 10 E. 15th St., which is currently still under construction, will house both the Clinton middle and high schools, with 730 students under the the leadership of the school's current principal, Jon Levin.

“We have a lot of confidence in Jon Levin," said Liz Craig, a Chelsea resident and mother of a sixth-grader attending Clinton, as well as another child who just graduated. "We’re excited about what the curriculum would be like. It’s great that the students can continue on to high school together if they choose."

To get the green light for the expansion from the DOE, the middle school must score a C grade or higher on its upcoming 2012-2013 progress report. Then the plan will face a public hearing in September, and the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on it in October, Puglia said.

The school has received A and B grades on its progress reports for the past three years, and the school's latest standardized test scores, released Wednesday, were also strong, with students performing better than the citywide averages. More than half of Clinton students passed the English Language Arts test, compared to an average 24.7 percent pass rate for sixth- through eighth-graders citywide.

"Clinton has a great track record in educating middle school students, and has proved attractive to prospective students in its effort to complement the core curriculum by enriching all subjects with writing and art," read a letter from the school's parent-led New Building Committee in support of the expansion.

"This kind of enhanced curriculum is in high demand on the high school level.... It would be wonderful to be able to offer a continuation of the Clinton experience to its existing students."

Admission to the Clinton school is rigorous, with prospective students required to submit a piece of artwork or writing, take a math assessment and go through a group interview, Craig said.

While Clinton can't move into its new space at 10 E. 15th St. until 2015, some parents and teachers at Clinton are discussing incubating the school's initial ninth-graders in the current location at 425 W. 33rd St., which currently serves about 300 middle-schoolers.

Craig, who is a member of the New Building Committee, said the school has room for additional students now, so there's no need to wait until it moves to its new home to launch the high school.

“We have an entire floor that's empty," Craig said. "It’s an idea that’s been floated. We just want to first get the proposal approved by the DOE and take it one step at a time.”