focus schools

ESSA plan

ahead of schedule

Shelby County Schools

New York

Exit strategy for students at closing schools hard to navigate

Edna Wilson and her granddaughter Gianee, a P.S. 64 student, protested the school's poor quality before its closure hearing in February. Wilson is among those who were disappointed with the transfer options the city presented to students in schools that it is is phasing out. (Luke Hammill) An escape route from the city's most struggling schools that Department of Education officials touted as a significant innovation is unlikely to be an option for many eligible families, parents and advocates say. When the city closes low-performing schools, new students aren't allowed to enroll and current students stay on until they graduate. The arrangement has drawn criticism from state officials, families, and advocates who say high-need students see morale and support decline as their schools diminish in size. This spring, just before finalizing plans to close 22 schools, department officials said they felt a “moral imperative” to help students who want to leave closing schools do so. They said they would mail transfer applications, including a list of possible destination schools, to all 16,000 students in the 61 schools that would be in the process of phasing out this fall. “They presented it to families as an alternative to protect their children,” said Emma Hulse, a community organizer with New Settlement who has helped South Bronx families fill out transfer applications. "But when the package actually hit people's mailboxes, we realized it’s not a meaningful alternative," she said.