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School’s out forever: DeBlasio closing three Brooklyn public schools

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Mayor DeBlasio plans to shut three troubled Brooklyn public schools plagued by low enrollment, poor grades, and violence by the end of this academic year — after just last year saying he would give them three years to turn themselves around.

But Hizzoner now insists the schools are beyond salvation, and putting them down is the best thing for students languishing at the shoddy institutions.

“We are investing unprecedented resources to give struggling schools the tools they need to turn around,” he said. “But if a school doesn’t have a clear path to improvement, we won’t let that status quo continue.”

The education department announced Monday that it wants to close MS 596 Peace Academy in Clinton Hill, alongside Bedford-Stuyvesant middle-school the School for the Urban Environment and high school Foundations Academy, as first reported by the New York Times.

All three have fewer than 100 students and are struggling academically — none of the Urban Environment students passed the state’s English test last year, while only 2 percent of Peace Academy students met the state’s standards on the exam. Foundations Academy has had some the lowest graduation rates in the city over the past two years.

And the state named both of the middle schools on its “persistently dangerous” list this year — based on reports of violence.

Still, Peace Academy and Foundations Academy were part of a program DeBlasio launched last year to pump $150 million into the city’s 94 lowest-ranked schools in order to help them turn them around. The schools would get up to three years to meet specific targets before the city swung the axe, he said at the time.

“We will move heaven and earth to help them succeed,” said DeBlasio in November last year, according to Chalk Beat.

But that plan came under increasing fire for being too soft — allowing the schools three years to fix what critics said others could in one — and state education officials turned up the pressure on the city to just shut the worst offenders.

DeBlasio had changed his tune by February of this year, stating that he would not hesitate to close troubled schools sooner if they fail to make consistent progress.

These are the first public schools DeBlasio has closed since taking office. Former Mayor Bloomberg axed more than 150, leading both the principals and teachers unions to file multiple lawsuits against that administration, claiming it was relying too heavily on closures to deal with shoddy schools.

But the unions say it is the right thing for the city to do in this case, because the schools have too many problems to save.

“Unfortunat­ely, each of the schools … present unique challenges which make closure the best option for Chancellor Carmen Farina to exercise at this time,” said Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

The city claims it will give each student at the closing schools individual support in finding a new one, and will work with staff members to get them new positions elsewhere.

Peace Academy is in District 13, which extends down to the waterfront and where parents are pushing for the city to create new high-achieving middle schools in both Dumbo and Prospect Heights, claiming families are moving out of the area due to the lack of good choices for their tweens.

The school closures aren’t a done deal yet. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy — a panel of education reps appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor — still has to vote on them.

The education department will hold public hearings at each of the schools next February to gather community feedback before the vote, according to a department rep.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with comments and more info from the city.
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