BEDFORD STUYVESANT – In April of this year, three parents of students at P.S. 25 Eubie Blake elementary school filed a suit against the Department of Education over closure of the school. Yesterday Judge Hon Katherine A Levine extended the stay and effectively kept P.S. 25 open for another year.
P.S. 25 Eubie Blake in District 16 is a zoned neighborhood school which currently serves 110 students in grades K-5. It was named a New York State Rewards school earlier this year for consistently making a big difference in educating its students – it is a high impact school. By the city’s own criteria P.S. 25 is the best school in District 16.
During the hearing, Assistant Corporations Counsel representing the Department of Education Carolyn Kruk said that because of the schools high ranking, it was unrealistic to provide all the students better schools as alternatives. The petitioners claimed that while children at all the other schools that were to be closed were offered “higher performing schools” as options, they were only offered schools whose “performance approaches that of P.S.25’s”.
The great majority of students at P.S.25 – 85% – come from disadvantaged backgrounds, over 30% of children have disabilities and/or reside in transitional housing. Last year 23.3% of its students were homeless, and over 30% of student’s had been homeless at some point, according to the lawsuit. This explains the one indicator by which this school falls short – attendance.
The judge questioned whether we’d even be having this conversation if rather than being a school where 96% of students are students of color, 96% were white.
Given the complexity of the case, lack of known case law precedents, and the impact the closure would have on the children, as well as the irreversible consequences of a decision to close the school, Judge Levine said she could not close the school at this time and requested more evidence, official statistics, hard facts and details, in order to be able to determine if the school was to be closed.
Judge Levine also told the Department of Education not to hold back on informing children at all the other schools that are being closed this year of their options, and that the stay only affected children at this school.
Department of Education maintains that despite a radically improved performance, the school is simply too small to be sustainable (DOE considers any school with less than 250 students under-enrolled, and the P.S. 25 building capacity is 1,004 students. Together with Success Academy that is colocated at the school, there are only 261 students at the building). DOE says that parents do not wish to send their kids there, as evidenced by under enrollment.
The school has succeeded by every measure under the school’s control. Except – hardly anyone knew that.
DOE “admits that P.S. 25’s positive impact rating and performance with respect to the need level of its student body were not included in the EIS or presented to the PEP.” – EIS standing for Educational Impact Statement, required at closing a school, and PEP is short for Panel on Educational Policy that votes on whether a school is to be closed.
There were no big, public celebrations of the school that would raise its image and attract new parents.
Enrollment next year will not be helped by the fact that “In light of its closure, P.S. 25 was not included in the kindergarten match process for the 2018-2019 school year. The kindergarten match results were mailed to parents and guardians on March 22, 2018,” according to the papers filed by the DOE.
Crystal Williams, one of the parents bringing this lawsuit who has two kids at the school said after the hearing – “the reward for turning a school around should not be closure”.