With a low four-year graduation rate and slow academic progress, the Department of Education announced last week that it would phase out Brandeis High School, on West 84th Street, starting this September.
Brandeis, which is open to students citywide and does not screen admissions based on academics, will not accept a new class of 9th graders. Each year, the school will lose another grade until it is completely closed.
The 2,289 students who currently attend the school can request a transfer to another school in the city, and incoming students can enroll in one of the three new, smaller schools, each tailored to a specific goal and open to students from all five boroughs.
One of the new schools, the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, will offer professional training in green technology, while another, the Global Learning Collaborative, operating in partnership with the Asia Society, will address the needs of English as Second Language students. A third school is being designed for students currently at other high schools who have fallen behind in certain classes and whose academic status does not match traditional grade levels.
“We want to open schools that will better serve students,” said Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “Academic performance at Brandeis did not meet the student’s needs. When we see 33 percent graduation rates, that’s simply unacceptable.”
Council Member Gale Brewer, who felt the decision to replace Brandeis with smaller schools wouldn’t necessarily improve student progress, also criticized the department for failing to include the community in planning for the three new schools that have already been announced.
“The process is not a good one,” Brewer said. “If I had my way, and had to phase out Brandeis, I would sit down with community, parents, high school professionals, teachers, and say ‘We have a problem here and how can we fix it.’”
The department will provide a chance for community input, however, when it begins exploring what additional new schools might work in the space once Brandeis is completely phased out. Plans are likely to include a screened school similar to Beacon High School on West 61st Street, with the goal of giving Upper West Side parents with another option for academically advanced children.
“We do expect to open more new schools in subsequent years and we welcome community input on what kinds of schools they’d like to see,” Meyer said.
Many in the Brandeis community were also critical of the decision to shutter the school and scheduled a Feb. 10 rally to protest.
“We’re a struggling school, not a failing school,” said Skip Delano, co-chair of the School Leadership Team. “Phasing out the school is not warranted.”
Delano, a teacher for 11 years who spent four of those years at Brandeis, wants to see Brandeis remain a school for comprehensive education, rather than broken into smaller factions.
“We’re not saying stop small schools,” Delano said. “But a large school like Brandeis is a valuable part of the West Side.”
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