The Department of Education this week released a new list of schools slated for closure. It included three in Queens: Law, Government and Community Service High School; Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School — both in the Campus Magnet complex in Cambria Heights — and PS 140, an elementary school in St. Albans.
PS 156 in Laurelton has been selected for for truncation, which means the DOE will be phasing out the middle school grades — 6 through 8 — while keeping the others.
Even though the moves haven’t been finalized, because there still must be a public hearing and comment period, the news is still disappointing to many.
“Our dedicated teachers and principals give of themselves everyday,” Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative for the Panel for Educational Policy, said in an email. “We need to implement a proven intervention plan, butgive it time to work before any drastic decision is made to phase-out a school.”
Fedkowskyj noted that just targeting a school for closure, even if it doesn’t go through, is harmful because it adds a stigma that often scares parents away from sending their children to the school. And dwindling enrollment means a decline in funding, which can make things worse.
Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who oversees the district where the closing schools are located, said he has some idea of what has been going wrong. At the Law, Government and Community Service High School, for example, Comrie said the student population has increased by one-third over the last two years.
“They have been struggling since they were given extra students, but not the extra resources to care for them,” Comrie said. “They are trying to stay at the same level academically, but they don’t have the resources to stay competitive.”
PS 140 just got a new principal who is working to meet all the ever-changing standards set by the DOE, and just needs time to fully adapt, according to the lawmaker.
“I don’t know why they are pulling the plug on either of these schools,” Comrie said. The DOE did not respond to an email asking whether the lawmaker’s assessments are accurate.
Both Fedkowskyj and education advocate Adrienne Adams believe the DOE may be too quick to scrap schools and should focus on trying to fix them.
“I refuse to believe that closure and collocation is the answer to what is labeled as ‘low performance,’” Adams said in an email. These schools need resources and support to gain higher achievement to thrive, not an administration who eagerly awaits the quick fix to shutter and shatter.”
Sarah Tient, a student at Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School, said she didn’t understand why it was selected for closure. “I think it’s a good school,” she said Tuesday. “I learn a lot.”
Felix Martelly, whose children Jada, 10, and Tyler, 6, attend PS 140 said he was disappointed to learn the school may be shutting its doors and is concerned about where his children will have to go to attend classes.
“I think it’s horrible,” Martelly said of the possible closure. “My kids love this school. I think it’s a very good school for this community to have around. I don’t want my kids to have to travel to a different school.”
In many cases the DOE shuts down a school and opens a new one in the same building.
But there were a few who were happy about the closures like Kayla Chavis, Anastasia Brown and Chelsea Etienne, students at Law, Government and Community Service High School.
“This school sucks,” Chavis said. “I’m a straight A student. I’m the only one who goes to the after-school programs.”
The girls said that while the teachers try their best, there are just too many unruly students who are unwilling to learn, ruining classes for the rest of the pupils.
“The teachers are really great, so it would be unfair to them to close the school because they are trying,” Etienne said. “It’s the students. They don’t try.”