A Tense School Merger in Bed-Stuy

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One middle school absorbs another, a plan some parents like and some don’t

Two middle schools will be merging in Bedford-Stuyvesant after the proposal was voted through by the Panel for Educational Policy last Wednesday. Although the decision from the panel was unanimous, support for the merger was not.

The two schools share a building on Stuyvesant Ave., near the corner of Lafayette and Malcolm X Blvd., with a high school on the first floor, J.H.S. 57 on the second, and M.S. 385 on the third. M.S. 385 will now pool its resources and part of its staff into new J.H.S. 57, which will accommodate the students from both. Several staff members are expected to be laid off or relocated from both schools, according to multiple sources.

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The consolidation of the schools, pushed for by Superintendent Evelyn Santiago, is a means to combat under-enrollment as a growing number of charter schools continue to draw students from the traditional public school system. The pooling of the school’s respective funds will mean an increased budget, and is expected to increase resources such as tutoring for the students. J.H.S. 57 currently enrolls around 180 students, while M.S. 385 has only 82. Both schools enroll students in the 6th through 8th grades, and share similar demographics.

But several parents of students at M.S. 385, which is set to dissolve into the bigger J.H.S 57 at the beginning of the 2016 academic year, are not pleased with the decision. They cited concerns about a lack of any new safety plans to accommodate the new arrangement, and new curriculums which may cut prized finance and entrepreneurship programs as reasons.

“They’re two different types of kids, and they’re already having clashes and problems,” says Samuel Owens, president of the M.S. 385 Parent Teacher Association. “Security is already an issue. M.S. 385 is also the only middle school that has business, finance, and entrepreneurship programs. The students love it and don’t want to give it up.”

Owens also says that the parents were not properly informed that the merger was just a proposal that would be later voted on.

While these concerns and others have been raised, parents from both schools agree that the merger has potential to be a success—due to increased funding and, thus, more opportunities for the students. Even Own agrees with that possibility. “I think student involvement and numbers will increase,” says Owens. “There will be the money that is needed and we will have proper funding.”

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