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City Votes To Shutter Three Brooklyn Schools

By Camille Bautista | February 25, 2016 4:31pm
 The city will close three Brooklyn schools at the end of the school year, including Foundations Academy High School and The School for the Urban Environment, located on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The city will close three Brooklyn schools at the end of the school year, including Foundations Academy High School and The School for the Urban Environment, located on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Three struggling Brooklyn schools will be closed by the end of the academic year.

In unanimous decisions from the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy, members voted Wednesday to shutter middle schools Peace Academy and the School for the Urban Environment, along with high school Foundations Academy.

The move to close traditional schools is a first for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, with two of the sites designated as Renewal Schools that the DOE had aimed to turn around.

M.S. 596 Peace Academy middle school on Willoughby and Kent avenues, The School for the Urban Environment, and Foundations Academy high school — both on Tompkins Avenue near Stockton Street — will close their doors come summertime.

The city cited persistently low enrollment, low performance and lack of demand by students and families in the closure proposals.

At Peace Academy, challenges included loss of funding, high staff turnover and fewer extracurricular and athletic opportunities, according to the DOE.

In the current academic year, the renewal school serves less than 50 students, which represents a nearly 75 percent decline in enrollment over the past five years, the agency said.  

Only two percent of students were proficient in the English Language Arts exam in the 2014-2015 school year, and only seven percent met standards in math.

Urban Environment, which shares a building with Foundations Academy, had the lowest enrollment of any middle school in the city in 2014-2015, officials said.

With less than 80 students this year, Foundations Academy saw a 55 percent decline in enrollment over five years, according to the DOE. The renewal school also had the lowest four-year graduation rate in the city at 22 percent in 2013-2104.

Neil Monheit, principal of Foundations Academy, acknowledged the school’s shortcomings Wednesday but pointed out progress he said the school has made in recent months.

“I understand that we’re here tonight to consider the closing of Foundations because we’re very, very small and we’re unsustainable at our current size,” Monheit said, adding that students have limited opportunities for “good social interactions.”

He told PEP members that, despite the challenges, he’s seen a “significant rise” in attendance, students have met college readiness goals for the year and he is anticipating an “uptick” in the graduation rate.

“And I think that comes down to they’re students with grit, students that have pushed through this and they recognize that they’ve had some adversity but they’re in a place that’s been nurturing for them.”

Celia Green, second vice president for School District 13’s President Council, worried that it would be difficult for high school students to find a new school.

“I know the educators will get other jobs, but I do feel strongly that the students and the parents really are at a disservice at this point,” Green said.

“But hopefully they will find other matches for other schools and they will do well.”

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña emphasized that the DOE would work closely with students to place them in new sites and provide recommendations to ensure a “smooth transition.”

“Closing a school is very hard,” Farina said.

However, decisions needed to be made in schools that were unable to provide the necessary resources and staff for kids to learn, the chancellor added.

“It is not fair to put students in a school where they’re not getting full services,” she said.

The decision to close the three traditional schools comes as the city moves to shutter three charters in Bed-Stuy, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Staten Island.