BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Two Brooklyn middle schools will be combined at the start of the 2016 school year following approval from the city’s Department of Education.
The DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy voted Wednesday to consolidate J.H.S. 57 and M.S. 385 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, citing issues with low enrollment that resulted in budget and programming challenges.
The two schools already share a building with The Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance high school at 125 Stuyvesant Ave., near Lafayette Avenue. This week’s decision will eliminate M.S. 385 as a school option in the coming academic year.
“I would not be doing the merger and consolidation if I didn’t think that the ultimate goal is that things would be a lot better,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told attendees at the High School of Fashion Industries auditorium.
“These are schools that we feel can grow, benefit and also produce students who are going to be much happier.”
Some schools lack adequate resources and services due to low capacity, Fariña added, and the combination comes with the expectation that enrollment will increase.
In the current school year, J.H.S. 57 had a projected enrollment of 166 students, and M.S. 385 had 68, according to the DOE.
With the approval, the newly consolidated J.H.S. 57 will serve up to 240 students in the upcoming school year.
“There is such a thing as too small. There’s such a thing as a school with no guidance counselors because you don’t have enough students to support per capita those positions,” Fariña said.
“It also comes from having only one teacher in a grade who has no other second-grade teacher to talk to, a fourth-grade teacher who has no one to share their frustrations with in terms of how they work with their kids.”
As a result of the merger, M.S. 385 students will be able to access J.H.S. 57’s extended-day tutoring, creative arts programs, and additional opportunities provided by the school, according to the DOE’s plan.
The PEP voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the consolidation, following previous public hearings in which some parents voiced concerns.
Some felt that the consolidation would lead to larger class sizes, while others expressed dissatisfaction with outreach done by the city, saying they believed that they weren’t given enough time.
An announcement was made in June, according to the DOE, followed by several community hearings and meetings.
Others, including both school principals, were in support of the merger due to the possibility of increasing opportunities for their kids.
As a result of the decision, some staff at either or both middle schools may be “excessed,” the city said, which means there would be fewer positions available for the current staff. This would include administrators and supervisors.
Staff will be merged into one list to determine seniority. Those excessed would be eligible to apply for other city positions.
In a separate decision Wednesday, the PEP voted to re-site a nearby high school, Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School, to share the same building and common spaces with The Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance.
A total of four schools will be in the Stuyvesant Avenue building in the new year.
A student of M.S. 385 shared his worries about the co-location just before Wednesday’s vote.
“I don’t have a problem with sharing with other people. How we share, that’s what you have to put in perspective,” said seventh-grader Samuel Isaiah Owens IV.
“How can you have kids downstairs who smoke weed in the hallways, in the auditorium, and we have to walk through that environment? Think about what the other high school would do. They are trying their best but their best is not what we need.”
The consolidation and high school co-location received support from School District 16’s Community Education Council, which passed two resolutions in favor of the proposals.
Previously, Frederick Douglass Academy shared space with an elementary school, which the CEC did not agree with.
The high school decision also garnered support from faculty and administrators, who said the move would benefit students with more resources.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, the building is expected to serve up to 490 students from all four schools, with a space utilization of 46 percent, according to the DOE.