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Students and teachers rally to prevent merger of high schools

Students, teachers rally against DOE merger plans

Bronx Times
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On Tuesday, March 6, students, teachers, and parents of the Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research protested the NYC Department of Education’s plans for their school’s future.

“When our schools are under attack, we stand up and fight back,” chanted a crowd outside the building.

One proposal being considered details plans for Rucker high school and Longwood Preparatory Academy, which share space and are both in the Renewal Schools program, to be consolidated into one school.

“Our mayor made a promise to help strengthen schools that needed it, but he is now going back on his promise and it’s not right,” said Wendy Nathaniel, a teacher at HLR.

LPA was formerly the Banana Kelly High School, which was placed into the Renewal program in 2014 with Holcombe L. Rucker.

According to the DOE, both schools have struggled with low enrollment, which has created budget and programming challenges.

To rectify the situation, the DOE plans to phase out Holcombe Rucker, while transitioning all its students into LPA.

“HLR’s legacy will only be a distinct memory and that’s not fair,” said Nathaniel.

“Proposals for consolidation seek to improve learning environments by combining the strengths and best practices of both schools,” according to the DOE in the Panel on Education Policy notice.

In another proposal, the DOE is considering a plan to co-locate a charter school.

Success Academy would move its middle school grades from its Bronx 3 and 4 locations into the same building as the high school.

“You’re sitting here and saying you support us but you really don’t care,” said HLR sophomore, Rosby Vazquez, to the PEP at the public hearing on the proposals.

The Success Academy-Bronx Middle School plan will essentially make way for the expansion of the Success Academy network, which many in the HLR community believe will lead to the eventual phase out of the high school grades, leading to a Success Academy takeover of the entire building.

The Holcombe Rucker School’s community has vowed not to go down without a fight and promised to continue protesting and attending all PEP meetings.

“When you combine schools, who gets the resources,” asked another HLR student during the public hearing inside the school. “We should be able to get priority over everyone else because our school has been here the longest.”

According to students and teachers at HLR, for 11 years the school pleaded with the DOE for the resources the school lacked, such as an auditorium, gymnasium, library, as well as a renovated cafeteria, but those requests were all denied or ignored.

The PEP is expected to vote on the options on Wednesday, March 21 at the High School for Fashion Industries in Manhattan.

“LPA has made significant improvements, including a consistently improving graduation rate. Holcombe Rucker currently has a stronger graduation rate,” said the DOE in the PEP notice. “The NYCDOE firmly believes that these communities will be stronger together.”

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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