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City Closing 5 More of Its Renewal Schools, Including 3 in The Bronx

By Eddie Small | January 9, 2017 2:29pm
 The city plans to close J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini and five other renewal schools at the end of the academic year.
The city plans to close J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini and five other renewal schools at the end of the academic year.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

THE BRONX — The city plans to close five of New York's renewal schools by the end of the academic year — three in The Bronx and two in Brooklyn, according to the Department of Education.

The agency intends to shutter J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini, the Leadership Institute, and the Monroe Academy for Visual Arts and Design in The Bronx, along with M.S. 584 and the Essence School in Brooklyn.

The announcement comes on the heels of the city's recently announced plan to close J.H.S. 162 Lola Rodriguez De Tio in The Bronx, which is slated to shut down at the end of the school year.

“In making these difficult decisions, our first priority is always what is best for students," DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. "During this process we will work individually with every student and family to ensure they have a seat at a higher-performing school where they will receive the instruction and support they need to succeed.”

The schools are serving a total of 1,368 students this year and employ 131 teachers, most of whom the DOE expects will be able to be placed elsewhere. The closure of J.H.S. 162 is subject to approval at the Panel for Educational Policy's February meeting, while the closures of the other five are subject to approval at its March meeting.

The city's Renewal School program aims to give long-struggling schools the resources and support they need to make improvements, and although the DOE maintains the program has yielded strong results so far, 2015-16 graduation rates and test scores at the schools slated for closure remained well below the city average.

Several teachers have left the schools as well, with about 61.3 percent who taught during the 2012-13 year leaving by the 2016-17 year, according to the United Federation of Teachers.

However, Jim Donohue, an English teacher at Arturo Toscanini, has stayed there for 17 years and said he was enraged by the proposed closure, arguing that his school was being "royally screwed" and did not receive enough support to succeed.

"Instead of getting extra resources, we lost half of our classrooms to a charter school co-location," he said. "We lost the most valuable teachers that we have in the building that have bilingual licenses. We haven’t had an assistant principal for a year."

Arturo Toscanini received plenty of support as a renewal school, including professional development for teaching English Language Learners and additional staff members who worked with the principal to implement improvement programs, according to the DOE.

Parents and staff at Arturo Toscanini were livid roughly two years ago when the city proposed having a Success Academy charter school expand into the building, and Donohue maintains that closing his school is just a way to give more space in the building to Success Academy.

Success Academy spokeswoman Ann Powell said that the charter school network has had no communication with the city about closing schools and that any decisions about building space would be made by the DOE, not by them.

Excess space in the building next year will be split between Success Academy and the other co-located schools—the Urban Science Academy and New Millennium Business Academy Middle School—while the city tries to figure out the best long-term use for it, according to the DOE.

In addition to the closures, the city plans to merge three additional renewal schools that are currently co-located with other schools:

► North Bronx School of Empowerment will merge with the The Young Scholars Academy of the Bronx, which is a renewal school.

►Automotive High School in Williamsburg, which is a renewal school, will merge with Frances Perkins Academy

►Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance in Bed-Stuy will merge with Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School, which is a renewal school.

The city is also cutting out the middle school grades 6 - 8 at P.S. 306 Ethan Allen in East New York as well as at P.S. 165 Ida Posner in Brownsville.