Parents, Community Save Washington Heights School

Parents and community leaders were able to stop the shutdown of P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte. (Photo by Victor Matos via El Diario)

P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte was certain to close, but a fierce fight by parents and community leaders changed the fate of this Washington Heights elementary school named after one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic.

The Department of Education launched an intervention plan and started paying attention to suggestions from the community and local politicians who opposed a shutdown.

In 2013, 26 schools will either close or be subject to a gradual shutdown.

But Juan Pablo Duarte and 32 other city public schools will have one more year to determine their future.

“The measures under consideration include a change in leadership, more technical support, expanding educational programs, and implementing continuing education for teachers,” explained Janet Durán, president of P.S. 132’s Parent Teacher Association.

Transformation in progress

Some changes began toward the end of 2011. “We now have two programs on Saturdays for children in second through fifth grade, and another one in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays for about 66 underperforming ESL students,” Durán emphasized.

The school will also introduce tutoring and parents will receive classes in computers and language so they can help their children with homework.

“We’ll even be calling parents regularly to let them know what’s happening and to ensure they participate,” Durán said.

P.S. 132 serves 767 students, 97 percent of which are Latino and 53 percent are learning English. According to a letter from the District 6’s Community Education Council, the loss of $1.5 million in funding, which started in 2009 and continues today, lead to the elimination of essential student programs.

Carmen Rojas, president of the organization Padres abogando por sus hijos (Parents Advocating for Their Children) said they will invite Chancellor Dennis Walcott to the school, and they will continue to fight for the restoration of the lost funding.

Luis Tejada, of the Hermanas Mirabal Family Center, stressed that his organization will continue working with parent-teacher associations in the area. “This outcome should pave the way for improvement in education throughout District 6.”

Sources from the DOE explained that school intervention, with certain differences depending on the specific schools, will include leadership training, professional development for students with learning difficulties, identifying subsidies to address the specific needs of each institution, new academic programs, smaller educational environments, and changes in management.

26 schools in danger of shutting down:

M625 High School of Graphic Communication Arts
M.S. 45/S.T.A.R.S Prep Academy
M469 Choir Academy of Harlem
M685 Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School
M.S. 203
Herbert H. Lehman High School
P.S. 064 Pura Belpre
Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications
M.S. 142 John Philip Sousa
Freedom Academy High School
P.S. 167 The Parkway
J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin
J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero
Sheepshead Bay High School
General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science
P.S. 140 Edward K Ellington
Law, Government and Community Service High School
J.H.S. 013 Jackie Robinson
Academy for Social Action
Performance School
P.S. 230 Dr. Ronald N. Patterson
P.S. 050 Clara Barton
P.S. 174 Dumont
P.S. 073 Thomas S. Boyland
P.S. 156 Laurelton
Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School

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