BY TRONE DOWD
Two Southeast Queens schools are set to close, according to New York City School Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
The schools, PS/MS 42 R. Vernam and MS 53 Brian Piccolo, are both located in Far Rockaway and are in District 27. The schools are just two of 14 schools being shut down citywide. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the schools were among the lowest-performing in the city.
Both PS/MS 42 and MS 53 were closed due to low English language arts and math scores on citywide tests.
The 14 school closings will mean more than 3,900 students will be looking to transfer to a new school at the start of the 2018 academic year, and more than 400 teachers will be out of work.
“The kids come first in any decision,” Fariña said. “All the decisions we made and we’re announcing today have that at the forefront.”
The Renewal School program is an initiative brought about under the de Blasio administration in 2014. The program aims to improve the performance of several struggling schools across the city by investing the appropriate resources into turning these schools around. These resources include after-school programs and extended school days, help for teachers and more. When the program began, 12 Queens schools participated in the program. According to The New York Times, $582 million has gone into the program so far. According to the city’s Department of Education, fiscal year 2018 is expected to see the mayor allocate $192 million towards renewal schools.
In addition to the news on the closing of renewal schools, the mayor announced that a new designation will be made for improving schools in the city. Dubbed “rising schools,” these institutions are said to have met at least 67 percent of their benchmarks, “are not on the State’s Priority list, and have demonstrated a sustainable school improvement structure that will allow them to build on their progress with fewer Renewal School resources,” the Department of Education.
Improvements include those to graduation rates, college readiness, state test scores and attendance. So far, 21 Renewal Schools are on this list, including Pan American International High School in Corona, PS 197 in Far Rockaway, Richard S. Grossley Junior High in Jamaica and John Adams High School in Ozone Park.
“When we made these decisions, it was after a whole lot of deliberation here week by week. We typically met every week, sometimes multiple times in a week,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the school closures at a press conference with the chancellor last week.
The mayor said that he was optimistic about the schools that are still working to improve themselves.
“But it’s the right vision and I feel very good about the schools, the Rise Schools that are moving forward right away,” he said. “I feel very good that of the 46 schools that are going to have an additional year, that the vast majority of them are going to do very well. So, I’m committed to the vision long term.”
Just two weeks ago, the Queens Tribune reported that Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village was removed from the list of Renewal Schools statewide.