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'Unusually Disruptive L Train' to Blame for Low HS Attendance: City Report

By Gwynne Hogan | September 14, 2016 3:56pm
 Automotive High School in Williamsburg had an 81 percent attendance rate in April.
Automotive High School in Williamsburg had an 81 percent attendance rate in April.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

GREENPOINT — Lousy L train service caused a drop in attendance at a struggling neighborhood high school, according to a city report.

The city had hoped to improve attendance by 3 percent at the struggling Automotive High School (50 Bedford Ave.) compared to February of 2015, but fell short of their goal by February of 2016, dropping .1 percent from the year, down to 81 percent attendance, according to the report. 

Higher than normal teacher turnover was blamed as one of the two reasons for a dip in attendance as well as, "unusually disruptive L train issues compared to previous years," according to quarterly State Receivership report, required by law for struggling schools. 

None of the school's students live in the surrounding zip code and most have longer than 30 minute commutes. Forty-three percent of the student body has to commute for longer than 45 minutes, the city pointed out.

The notoriously temperamental L train, is slated to undergo major repair work on in 2019 that will shut service down between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 18-months, and hopefully bring it back up to speed.

The New York Post first reported on the report.

While suspensions at the school were down slightly from the year, violent incidents increased between February and April, which the report attributed to students bringing in box cutters from after school jobs and "persistent de-escalation issues."

The MTA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Automotive High School, which the city said was known as a "warehouse" for struggling students, had just 46 percent 4-year graduation rate, compared with 70 percent rate citywide.

In 2014, Automotive High School was designated a renewal school by the city, one of 94 low performing schools that were to get extra funds and expanded learning time to help boost test scores and attendance.

A year later, Mayor Bill De Blasio visited the school, touting its increase in attendance to 83 percent, the highest rate in a decade, a 33 percent drop in violent incidents, and a decrease in suspensions, down 47 percent from the year before.

But persistent concerns lead the Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in July to select a new principal for the school, Kevin Bryant, who headed the Francis Perkins Academy in the same building.

"Automotive High School has a new principal with a proven track record of increasing attendance," said Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye. "He's closely tracking absenteeism data and using early interventions to make sure kids come to school, to strengthen the school community and to improve academic outcomes."

Caterina Lafergola, who was the principal there since 2011, took a job Baldwin, Long Island, though students and staff there petitioned to keep her out.