BROOKLYN — A struggling Brooklyn high school could share its space with a high-performing one in an effort to increase collaboration and bring new resources and facilities for both communities, according to a proposal from the city’s Department of Education.
If approved, Bed-Stuy's Boys and Girls High School, listed as one of the city’s Renewal Schools for its underperformance in recent years, would be co-located with Crown Heights’ Medgar Evers College Preparatory School starting in the 2016 academic year.
The schools already share a leader — Michael Wiltshire, who serves as principal of Medgar Evers and Master Principal of Boys and Girls, according to the DOE.
In 2014, the city tapped Wiltshire to come to Boys and Girls at 1700 Fulton St., where he said he aimed to mirror the academic achievements he helped bring to the Crown Heights school.
With approximately 1,200 students in sixth through 12th grade, Medgar Evers is short on space at its current location at Nostrand Avenue and Carroll Street, according to the DOE.
It has no gym or auditorium, Wiltshire has said at previous meetings, while Boys and Girls has a large auditorium, a recently revamped $400,000 football field and additional science labs. It's suggested that Medgar Evers moves into the Boys and Girls' building.
Medgar Evers boasted a 96 percent four-year graduation rate for the 2014-2015 school year, records show, with 71 percent of students leaving college-ready.
In the same academic year, Boys and Girls had a 50 percent graduation rate, with 10 percent of students graduating college-ready.
Still, with additional resources and targeted focus from the DOE, the Renewal school has made progress, according to city officials and members of Boys and Girls’ Community Advisory Board.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has touted the school’s success, telling graduates in June that twice the number of young men and women were moving forward than previously expected last fall.
Under Wiltshire, the school has added longer days and advanced classes, along with Saturday tutoring, summer sessions for incoming freshmen and a new Career Technical Experience program.
It also serves as a community school, which provides social services and resources to families, students and local residents.
Students from Boys and Girls and Medgar Evers already interact, according to the DOE, as a small set of students from the Fulton Street school travel to the nearby Crown Heights location to take Advance Placement courses and college programming.
The proposed co-location would allow kids to further collaborate in extra-curricular activities and partnerships, officials said.
Wiltshire had previously floated the idea of merging the two schools, according to reports, but under the DOE’s proposal, the schools would function as separate institutions under the same roof.
If approved, the shared resources and high-performance reputation of Medgar Evers could help increase parents’ interest in Boys and Girls as a high school option for their children, said former Assemblyman and Councilmember Albert Vann who serves as a co-chair for Boys and Girls’ Community Advisory Board.
“It’s the same principal, the same culture, we know that it will increase their interest and number of students who will want to come to Boys and Girls High School,” Vann said.
“A strong academic excellence program at Boys and Girls is probably the only way to preserve the history and legacy of the old Boys High and Girls High.”
In addition to a stronger foundation for the school, the co-location and increased collaboration between both communities would provide the opportunity to strengthen resources in middle schools that need greater support in Community School District 16, Vann added.
Boys and Girls already shares a building with two other schools, Research and Service High School and the Nelson Mandela High School, and has the capacity to serve a total of 3,320 students.
If approved, the space would have a utilization rate of up to 69 percent in the 2017-2018 school year with all four schools.
Under the current proposal, the city suggests Medgar Evers’ co-location take place in two phases: re-siting its middle school grades to Boys and Girls in 2016-2017 to alleviate overcrowding in its current building, then moving the high school students in 2017-2018.
Officials acknowledge that middle and high school students at Medgar Evers share certain programming and if the co-location were to go through, the school would need to adjust its methods while operating at separate locations.
Boys and Girls' Community Advisory Board believes that the co-location should occur in one phase with Medgar Evers’ entire student body in order to best serve its students, instead of two separate moves, Vann said.
Wiltshire and representatives for the Medgar Evers' school community were not immediately available for comment.
“The proposal for a co-location is being discussed with the school communities and other community partners,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
“If approved by the PEP [Panel for Educational Policy], this co-location will be made with extensive public engagement opportunities and to best support students and their families.”
Medgar Evers staff held community meetings in October and November to get feedback from families, according to the DOE, and the public will have the chance to comment at upcoming gatherings.
Joint hearings will be held on March 9 at 6 p.m. at Boys and Girls High School, 1700 Fulton St., and March 15 at 6 p.m. at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, 1186 Carroll St.
The Panel for Educational Policy is expected to vote on the proposal on March 23.