Fariña announces plans to close a struggling Bronx high school

One day after the city’s education policymaking panel voted to close three schools, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced plans to shutter another one.

Citing its low enrollment and a graduation rate that has hovered around 45 percent, city officials said they want to close Foreign Language Academy of Global Studies in the Bronx at the end of this school year. If the closure is approved, it would be the fourth district school closed under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said that tactic should be used only as a last resort.

The high school is a part of the city’s “Renewal” turnaround program, which launched in fall 2014 with a promise to flood the city’s struggling schools with the resources they need to succeed. The schools were told they had three years to improve, though some could face closure sooner if they failed to show signs of progress.

Officials said Thursday that FLAGS fell into that category, with its four-year graduation rate dipping slightly and its enrollment in freefall over the last three years. The school is serving just 101 students this year, a number officials said left it unable to offer key classes and services.

“We have to hold our schools accountable for raising student achievement,” Fariña said in a statement. “When a school’s enrollment is persistently low – and continues to decline – it simply cannot provide the services students need to thrive.”

Fariña’s statements underscore the enrollment battle facing many New York City high schools — which compete for students from across the city — especially those without competitive programs, those struggling to overcome a negative reputation, or those located in less accessible neighborhoods.

The city’s decision didn’t sit well with some activists who fought school closures under the Bloomberg administration and who have supported the de Blasio administration’s education initiatives. On Thursday, they asked why schools aren’t being given the full three years to improve through the Renewal program.

“There has [been] no clarity around what sparks the closure of a Renewal school,” Natasha Capers, a coordinator with the Coalition for Educational Justice, said in a statement. “The culture of fear that dominated struggling schools during the previous administration does not nourish the difficult process of school improvement.”

Education department spokesman Harry Hartfield said only that the city had reviewed several options for FLAGS over the last few months before deciding to move to close the school.

Officials said the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposal in April.