Today’s news:

Truman, Lehman next to fall?

Walton, Kennedy, Stevenson, Evander Childs, South Bronx, Clinton, Morris, Monroe. Early on Wednesday, January 27, the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to phase out yet another traditional Bronx high school.

Columbus High School and Global Enterprise High School, a small school on the Columbus campus, won’t accept ninth grade students as of fall 2010 and will cease to exist as of fall 2013.

One or more small schools will join three established at the Columbus campus in 2002. KAPPA International School has already been awarded a spot; a high school, it will expand from three grades to four.

So add Columbus to the graveyard list. Some parents and teachers are afraid that the DOE will add Truman High School and Lehman High School next. Councilman Jimmy Vacca is afraid, too.

Why? Because he expects Truman and Lehman to absorb a flood of special needs students and English language learners from Columbus.

“My impression is that when they close Columbus they’re going to send the kids to Truman,” said Patricia Williams, a Throggs Neck parent who volunteers at Columbus and Truman. “Because these charter schools won’t take Columbus students.”

When the DOE established small schools at the Columbus campus in 2002, those schools acquired the best students; Columbus principal Lisa Fuentes kept her doors open, Columbus teachers and parents argue.

Those challenged students and DOE pressure sunk the Columbus ship, they contend. Although KAPPA International is not a charter school, it is based on the KIPP charter school model. Besides, the DOE won’t rule out a charter school at the Columbus campus.

Many charter schools and small schools – although not all – pick and choose students, teachers and parents maintain.

“Truman will be bombarded by hundreds of kids,” Williams said. “[Fuentes] has been punished for her kindness and the same thing will happen to [Truman principal] Ms. [Sana] Nasser.”

DOE spokesman Danny Kanner disagreed.

“Our new, small schools serve special education students and English Language learners at a higher rate than other schools citywide,” he said. “Our new schools will serve all students, no matter of need. The purpose of these phase-outs is to create better options for high-needs students.”

School District 8 family advocate Jean Depesa won’t be surprised if the DOE targets Lehman next.

“Lehman could be next, for the same reasons,” Depesa said.

Some 20 percent of Lehman students are special needs, she explained. Many more are English language learners. The phase-out of Columbus could put additional pressure on Lehman, Depesa said.

Vacca agreed.

“Lehman already has 4,300 students,” Vacca said. “No more than 2,400 are zoned for the school. Lehman got big when Stevenson and Evander were phased-out. The DOE closes schools first and plans later.”

Neither Truman nor Lehman has extra room, noted Williams, who thinks that the DOE’s small school strategy has failed at Evander Childs. Truman and Lehman could still escape. But Columbus?

“Too late,” Williams said.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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