For many students Crotona Academy High School was their last chance to graduate high school.
Crotona Academy is a transfer school, which is a secondary school that helps students who dropped out or fell behind in credits at traditional schools, according to the NYC Department of Education.
But on Friday, March 2, just a few weeks before their spring recess, the DOE released a notice that the school was on the list of proposed schools to be closed in September.
The school serves 165 students between grades nine and 12, that allows a more one-on-one approach to teaching and learning, according to students.
Loren Gordon, a 19-year-old graduating senior, said she tried and failed to get her high school diploma at three other traditional high schools prior to landing at Crotona Academy.
The school helped her improve her grades, and built her confidence so much that she has even begun applying to colleges, she said.
Gordon is not the only one who has achieved academic success at Crotona Academy but these sucesses are falling on deaf ears.
Poor academic performance is one of the three reasons the DOE listed for the school’s closure, along with low attendance and an excess of transfer school seats in the borough.
Crotona Academy students, parents and some teachers believed these reasons are insufficient and that they are being unfairly targeted by Superintendent Paul Rotondo, who they said selected the school as the only transfer school to be closed in the district.
The decision to put Crotona Academy on the chopping block did not match the feedback the school received from the NYS Department of Education on their performance, according to documents acquired from a source within the school.
According to the earlier evaluations, Crotona Academy was listed as being in ‘Good Standing’ from 2013 to 2018 based on the NYSED accountability system.
In the March 2 notice, however, the DOE noted the school had only achieved a 45 percent graduation rate for the 2016-2017 school year, which was less than the 63 percent the school had during the 2014-2015 year.
Parents argued these numbers are outdated and do not take student progress into account.
Shaunte Williams-Dean, the current Parent Teacher Association president at Crotona Academy said her 18-year-old daughter came to the school with only 12 credits and had never passed a Regents Exam while attending any of the other high schools, but was able to do so in her six months at Crotona Academy while accruing an additional 13 credits.
“If you close this school, these kids are going to give up and not go back to school,” said Williams-Dean.
The borough currently has over 3,000 spots for transfer school students, but less than 3,000 transfer students to fill them, according to the notice.
Closing the school would close the gap of excess seats from 950 to 850, according to the notice.
If the plan is approved, students who do not graduate before September will receive guidance and counseling in selecting a new transfer school.
The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the closure at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25 at Murray Bergtrum High School in Manhattan.
The public hearing for students, parents, staff, and community members to voice their objections to the proposal took place on Thursday, April 12 at Crotona Academy High School.
Until the final vote is taken, some students have urged members of the PEP to visit Crotona Academy to observe the environment and see how effectively they learn.