One of the borough’s oldest schools will lose a quality program after only two years.
St. Philip Neri School, a K to 8 school which has been in existence for over a century, will lose its Universal Pre-K program a year earlier than originally expected.
The school’s UPK program, a NYC Department of Education program which was promised to schools of all boroughs by Mayor de Blasio in 2015, offered assistance to many of the community’s low-income families, was abruptly cancelled on Thursday, March 9.
However, the announcement of the cancellation was not made to facility and staff until nearly three weeks later by the school administration.
St. Philip Neri School’s administration announced that the UPK program closure decision occurred because the school did not provide appropriate intervention for students with various educational needs, even though the Archdiocese did not assist in providing special education services or hiring special education teachers for the program.
The UPK program was comprised mostly of students who struggled with severe social-emotional, developmental and academic delays. If the program is not reinstated, the closure will directly effect 100 needy students who were already enrolled for the 2017-18 school year.
An additional 117 students were also interested in participating in the program, but were unable to register after it was cancelled. Registered families have since received an email that the school is no longer participating in registration for the program, with no further explanation.
The school believes the decision was unwarranted, since the program received positive feedback from the school’s instructional specialists as well as parents.
“I am fearful for the community - because many families here are going to lose a great program that they were promised,” said one UPK staff member, who requested to remain anonymous until receiving more closure from the DOE and the Archdiocese. “Other UPK programs (in the Bronx) will be more difficult for families to reach without transportation.”
They added that the UPK program also played a role in helping the school retain student enrollment.
“We’ve had parents come into our school, in tears, explaining to our staff that they love our school and they want to enroll their children in the program - and we have no response,” the UPK staff member added. “These parents are looking for answers that we can’t give them - and even worse, we are not equipped with the support and/or staff to meet the needs of these students.”
According to the school, the Archdiocese signed a three-year contract with the DOE to house the UPK program for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 school year.
The Archdiocese of New York confirmed that the decision was made by the DOE in an effort to strategically redeploy and redistribrute the school’s resources and that the cancellation of the program will take place at the end of the school year.
It is still unclear how many other schools in the Bronx will lose their UPK programs.