The John F. Kennedy High School community is preparing for a public hearing with Department of Education officials on Friday, January 28 at 6 p.m. to discuss the recommended closure of the school with parents, students and teachers.
The mandatory hearing is part of the process of gathering feedback in creating an Educational Impact Statement outlining the effect closing the struggling school, which serves many immigrant and special needs young people, will have on the students. An EIS is required by law to close the school, which is the last remaining traditional large high school at the Kennedy campus, located at 99 Terrace View Avenue.
According to plans released by the DOE in December 2010, the school which is currently serving around 1500 students would be replaced by two smaller schools, with the final class graduating from Kennedy in June 2014. The leak of a preliminary draft of plans for replacement of the school’s seats sparked concern when it was revealed, according to published reports, that Kennedy would be replaced with two new charter schools run by New Visions. DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitiz released a statement calling the leak “incredibly disappointing” since the agency had not yet fully discussed the plans with the school’s community. Many expressed doubts about a charter school at the location, for various reasons.
“I have very mixed feelings about charter schools because I think they have a tendency to attract the more motivated and involved families and kids,” said Councilman Oliver Koppell, who joined with other elected officials in a letter calling on the DOE to make the processes of replacing seats at Kennedy more transparent.
“There certainly should be a hearing and we should find out more about the charter school idea. I am not saying I am totally opposed to it, but as a general matter, I am skeptical. I am not convinced that this is the way that public education should go.”
Sistas and Brothas United student organizer Rafael Pena, a 2007 Kennedy High School graduate, said that as the four smaller, themed high schools began to share the building with Kennedy, resources like textbooks, new technology and computers began to drift away from the traditional high school to the newer ones. He said that since his time at Kennedy, the school has also lost its librarian, step team and many teachers who transferred to smaller schools.
“When I was going to Kennedy many students were frustrated with the new schools because they had new computers, the most up-to-date technology, and new textbooks,” Pena said. “We had chalk boards and textbooks from the 1980s.”
“The students at Kennedy need support and they need to phase it out slowly,” Pena stated. “The students who remain will still need teachers and textbooks for the next three years.”
Sistas and Brothas United, part of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, will be holding a rally outside of the school before the hearing at 5 p.m.