December 8, 2011
At 15 schools across the city today, administrators who had only just found out that their schools were slated to close broke the bad news to parents, teachers, and students. We stopped by schools in three boroughs to see how community members were responding.
Jane Addams High School for Academic Careers
Students at Jane Addams heard about the closure announcement either from their eighth-period teachers or from letters distributed by staff and DOE officials who were at the school before the 2:20 p.m. dismissal.
A school staff member said teachers were staying late to meet with administrators and union officials but that few were surprised by today’s news.
“We had a meeting a month earlier, so we were kind of expecting it.” she said, referring to the early engagement meetings the DOE has held at each of the 47 schools it considered for closure.
Since then, Jane Addams has been mired in a massive crediting scandal, first reported by the Daily News, that could threaten graduation for hundreds of students.
Students today said they were worried how the closure decision would affect their credits. But they were divided about whether the school deserved its fate.
“We don’t learn in our school. We barely do anything,” said ninth-grader Myasia Irons. “We don’t have Spanish classes, we don’t have health classes. I might transfer.”
But a sophomore said he thought Jane Addams’s problems wouldn’t be solved by closing its doors.
“I believe it’s only failing because when they closed the other big schools in the zone they started sending the kids here,” he said, echoing a frequent critique of school closures.
And students had good things to say about the school’s under-fire principal, Sharron Smalls. Senior Tanay Carr said Smalls let her stay in the principal’s office to avoid fights, even after she was suspended several times. Another student told GothamSchools, “She’s like a mother to me.” And a ninth-grader said emphatically, “She’s a good principal. Leave her alone!”
Manhattan Theatre Lab High School
Most students pouring out of the Martin Luther King campus near Lincoln Center had no idea that one of the six schools in the building had been slated for closure. But students from Manhattan Theatre Lab, housed in the basement, said they were told during an eighth-period, whole-school meeting that school might be closed and a final decision would be made in February.
“It’s kind of a shocker,” said a ninth-grader. “This is my first year at this school and it’s surprising that they’re talking about it being shut down.”
Under the watchful eye of a dean who asked us to leave the campus, a senior told GothamSchools that she thought the reason for closure might be that it’s hard for people to graduate on time.
“Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing and it’s not fair,” the senior said.
Legacy Integrated High School
Long after school hours had ended, students continued to straggle out of Legacy’s building near Union Square in Manhattan. They reported that they had been called into an assembly and told that the school would close.
Alicia Solis, a ninth-grader, said she was happy with the school because she thought she was getting the classes she needed to advance and because there is little fighting.
“We’re all doing everything we’re supposed to,” she said, surprised that the school’s efforts had been identified as falling short.
P.S. 161, The Crown School
Once a top choice for Crown Heights families, P.S. 161 has had a rough patch in recent years, posting low progress report scores. Today, the DOE announced that it would cut the middle school grades but leave the elementary school open.
Parents of elementary school students said they didn’t know how the middle school performed.
“Since my children aren’t there yet, I’m not sure what kind school it is,” said Katherine Seward, who has children in kindergarten and third grade.
But she said she was aware that both schools had been struggling.
“We can do more to improve,” Seward said.
Another elementary school parent, who declined to give her name, said she was not concerned the middle school was closing.
“I doubt I’ll even be living in New York by the time he’s in middle school,” the mother said. She said she planned to move in part because the city is too expensive and in part because she was looking for better schools.