Appeals Court Blocks School Closings

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Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan is one of the 19 schools slated for closure.

Photo by: Marc Fader

Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan is one of the 19 schools slated for closure.

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that stopped the New York City Department of Education from closing 19 schools.

Agreeing with a March ruling that found the DOE failed to conduct adequate educational impact statements on the closing, the five judges of the first judicial department wrote that the documents filed by the DOE on each closing fail to provide details on the “ramifications of such school closing or significant change in school utilization upon the community.”

“Rather, each EIS merely indicates the number of school seats that will be eliminated as a result of the proposed phaseout, and states that the seats will be recovered through the phase-in of other new schools or through available seats in existing schools in the district or City,” the Department of Education has the option to appeal.

But while legal arguments continue, education advocates are pressing policymakers to consider alternative methods for improving bad schools.

In a City Limits op-ed (click here to read it), education experts Pedro Noguera and Ben Meade argue that the DOE has failed to make clear how closing schools “will lead to better schools for the most vulnerable students”

But in documents that the DOE has published (see excerpts here) defending its school closings, the department says that it tries alternatives to closing schools, but adds: “school turnaround is difficult, takes time, and does not always succeed.”