As the city moves to take some of the alternatives out of many of its longstanding alternative high schools, at least one such school last week won an 11th hour reprieve from being closed down-at least until next winter.
The Department of Education had planned to revamp its schools for pregnant teens and young moms, known as “p-schools,” since last summer [“Pregnant Pause,” City Limits magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002], citing dismal academic performance and poor attendance. One school in Brooklyn did shut down last fall, and in early June, Althea Gibson Treadwell, principal for the Program for Pregnant and Parenting Services, told teachers and administrators at the remaining four-which serve 668 students-that their program would follow suit at the end of the year.
Then, in an about face last Monday, Deputy Superintendent of Alternative High Schools Bernard Gassaway told teachers the schools would remain in place until February, but made no promises about what would happen after that.
Education Department officials would not discuss their plans for the 37-year-old program beyond keeping it going this fall. “We are looking to enhance services, not reduce them,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose.
For now, staffers and students are relieved. Until last week, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein had planned to convert the schools into “service” programs for struggling young men and women with criminal records and focus on language training, literacy and parenting skills rather than many of the academic subjects students need to graduate. The pregnant and parenting girls, meanwhile, were to be transferred to their zoned high schools, a proposal which raised serious concerns among teachers, parents and students, who said pregnant teens are often teased at traditional high schools, leading them to withdraw socially and cut classes.
While the department remains concerned about the program’s performance — attendance hovers at nearly half the average for traditional high schools and nearly two-thirds of students drop out, triple the city average-agency officials admitted at a meeting convened by the United Federation of Teachers last week that they needed more time to devise a solution. For now, the city will keep things as is.
Said union rep Abe Ruda, “They made the right decision to take more time and do better planning to try to come up with something that meets the needs.”