In what has become an annual event in the era of mayoral control of the public school system, New York City education officials said Monday that they would move to close two schools this summer and begin to phase out 15 others that they characterized as the poorest performing.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said more schools would be added to the list on Tuesday, so that the proposals could be rolled out “in a respectful way,” and with time to properly contact those at the affected schools.
See list below.
Since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office in 2002, his administration has closed around 140 public schools. Closing schools, and replacing them with new traditional public schools or charter schools in the same buildings, has been one of his signature education reform maneuvers. The proposals usually prompt emotional debates and boisterous public hearings in which parents and teachers, some of them enlisted by the United Federation of Teachers, stand up to voice opposition. Teachers cannot be fired when their schools close, but they frequently end up in limbo, drawing full salaries but unable to find permanent positions in other schools.
School officials cast the effort as a means of trimming the lowest-performing schools in a system with 1.1 million students. The schools on the closing list have 16,000 seats, which officials said would be replaced by other schools, including ones focused on career and technical education, like health and emergency management. Schools being phased out will remain open for their current students, but they will not admit other children.
“In every instance, where we phase out a school, we are replacing those seats,” said Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor.
There is little question that the Panel for Educational Policy will approve the list, since a majority of its members are appointed by the mayor. Still, from year to year, some schools appear, disappear and reappear on the so-called closing list due to other factors.
One such school, the Choir Academy of Harlem, was first cited for closing in 2009. But those plans were stymied when a judge sided with the teachers’ union and others who had sued to stop its shutdown. Whether another reprieve comes for the school, which is well known for jazz and gospel singing, is unclear.
This year the schools on the list, aside from the Choir Academy, are seven high schools, six middle schools and three elementary schools distributed roughly equally across four boroughs; no Staten Island school was listed.
The two schools slated to close completely this year are Freedom Academy High School in Downtown Brooklyn and Middle School 45/S.T.A.R.S. Prep Academy in East Harlem.
Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx remains in the Education Department’s cross-hairs. It was slated to close and reopen in September in plans that never came to fruition. The school’s principal, Rose LoBianco, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Other schools on the list are Sheepshead Bay High School, in Brooklyn; the High School of Graphic Communication Arts, in Manhattan; and the Law, Government and Community Service High School in Queens.
Academics are one factor the school system measures in making closing decisions. For the elementary and middle schools on the list, a large majority of the students scored below average in state standardized tests in English and math. For the high schools, the average graduation rate in 2010-11 was 54.4 percent, versus a citywide average of 65.5 percent, officials said.
“We expect success,” Mr. Sternberg said in a statement that continued: “We’ve listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs. Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start.”
The Bloomberg administration has argued that new schools generally perform better than the ones they replaced. But studies have also suggested that schools being closed tend to have high concentrations of the demographics who do poorly, and that as the city continues to close schools, those students become concentrated in fewer and fewer schools — which are then closed themselves.
Norm Fruchter, the senior policy analyst at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, a nonprofit educational research and policy group, said the group analyzed the elementary and middle schools on the city’s list and found they had much higher percentages of black and Latino students than the city average, as well as much higher percentages of pupils qualifying for free lunches than the city average.
Also, he said, “they have a higher percentage of special ed, a higher percentage of English-language learners and a higher percentage of special education students in self-contained classes.”
“It looks like these schools got these extra percentages in the years before they were tapped for closing,” he said. “They are closing the schools that have the most challenges, rather than trying to intervene to end the cycle of just closing the school and sending the kids somewhere else, and then when they get the same results they will just close that school.”
The department spokeswoman said there are many schools serving high-needs populations that outperform schools that are on the department’s list to be phased out.
Here are the schools slated to close:
-Freedom Academy High School, Brooklyn
-M.S. 45/S.T.A.R.S. Prep Academy, Manhattan
-M.S. 203, Bronx
-Herbert H. Lehman High School, Bronx
-P.S. 064 Pura Belpre, Bronx
-Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications, Bronx
-M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa, Bronx
-P.S. 167 The Parkway, Brooklyn
-J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin, Brooklyn
-J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero, Brooklyn
-Sheepshead Bay High School, Brooklyn
-Gen. D. Chappie James Middle School of Science, Brooklyn
-High School of Graphic Communication Arts, Manhattan
-Choir Academy of Harlem, Manhattan
-Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School, Manhattan
-P.S. 140 Edward K Ellington, Queens
-Law, Government and Community Service High School, Queens