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City plans to open new schools despite ruling's unclear impact

The city has no plans to fight an appellate court ruling that will keep open 19 schools marked for closure, Chancellor Joel Klein said today. But it does plan to open new schools in the same buildings.

That’s despite the fact that the same closure proposals that judges deemed inadequate were also used to justify opening 17 new schools in those buildings.

Whenever the city wants to shut down a school or make several schools share the same building space, state law requires city officials to prepare “educational impact statements” (or EIS’s) that examine how the changes will affect students and the surrounding community. The EIS’s that the citywide school board approved in January included, in the same documents, both the plans to close the 19 schools and replace many of them starting next year.

Today, five appellate court judges unanimously ordered the city to reissue those EIS’s with more detail than what the court called “boilerplate information about seat availability.”

But Department of Education officials said today that ruling does not mean the city has to re-start the public approval process to co-locate the new schools in the buildings where they had planned to shut schools down. “The court’s decision relates to the phase-out of failing schools, not the siting of new schools,” said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.

A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said that the question was murky and that the union and the city are discussing the implications of the court’s ruling on the city’s co-location plans for the schools.

In some cases, the new schools will not have a problem expanding while the older school continues to operate. The new schools will need relatively little space in each building next year because they will open with just one grade. And many of the schools spared from closure today will enroll tiny entering classes next year after the city discouraged parents from sending students to them.

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