Renewal to Help Bronx Schools Turn Around

A classroom in Banana Kelly HIgh School (Photo via The Hunts Point Express)

A classroom in Banana Kelly High School (Photo via The Hunts Point Express)

Four schools in the Bronx which have been performing poorly have been selected to be part of the city’s new School Renewal Program, which aims to turn around lagging schools with longer school days, more training for teachers and principals, more social workers and possibly summer school programs as well, reports Annie Nova in the The Hunts Point Express.

In addition, another school in the Hunts Point area has been named a Community School, which means that students will receive non-academic services from the city.

The schools selected for the School Renewal Program are Banana Kelly High School, the Hunts Point M.S. 424, Holcombe L. Rucker School and Entrada Academy. The school which will become a Community School is the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists.

The schools have three years to meet the plan’s goals or face staff changes or closure. Department of Education officials will pay frequent visits to the schools to make sure that these changes are in place.

The schools were chosen because they have demonstrated poor performance from students, or have been rated low on other measures of school success. According to Department of Education statistics, Entrada Academy, a middle school on Fox Street, has not met its target for “student progress” or for “closing its achievement gap.” M.S. 424 was named a “priority school” by the State Department of Education in 2012, defined by the state as “persistently low achieving.” Holcombe L. Rucker School, a high school on Longwood Avenue, has not met its goal for “college and career readiness.” Banana Kelly High School, which shares a building with Holcombe L. Rucker, is also a priority school, and has failed to maintain targets for the overall “school environment.” At all of the schools, at least 76 percent of students are eligible for free lunch.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the Renewal Program will give such schools the chance to turn themselves around with the tools, leadership and support they require.

Citywide, most principals have seemed hopeful about the plan. “Anything that helps Entrada, and that will get us the resources we need, will be a plus,” said Jazmin Rivera Polanco, Entrada Academy’s principal.

The city will spend a total of $150 million on 94 schools citywide as part of the renewal plan — $39 million this school year and $111 million in the next. The 43 Community Schools will benefit from an additional $52 million in funds. “Entrada was probably picked because the students weren’t performing well in their classes,” said Polanco. “Plus, Entrada has persistently been labeled as dangerous.” Polanco attributed this to a new policy that requires every incident of misconduct be reported to the Department of Education.

For more on specifics of how the city’s school renewal plan will work, as well as details on the health care and other services that Community Schools such as the Bronx Studio School will receive, go to The Hunts Point Express.

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