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Bronx parent association struck by school closure fever

So many schools are getting turned around, restructured, or intervened-upon these days that parents have added a new phobia to their list: the school-closure fever.

Parents at a Bronx elementary school recently scheduled a protest demanding that their school not be shut down and their principal keep his job. They also wrote a blog post. But the school is not actually scheduled for closure at all.

The Bronx’s P.S. 73 is one of 47 schools in the city who haven’t made the annual progress on their test scores required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act for five years running. The schools are assigned a “Joint Intervention Team,” a group of city and state officials who visit the school and recommend how to improve it.

The intervention teams can recommend that a principal be removed or a school be phased out, but they can also make less dramatic suggestions to change how the school is run. And it’s likely to be three more months before the team issues its recommendations on P.S. 73, DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said.

In the case of a school like P.S. 73 — whose progress report grade jumped from a C to an A last year and whose principal has received international recognition for the school’s dual-language program — the team is not likely to recommend shutting the school down or firing the principal, Zarin-Rosenfeld said.

But that hasn’t stopped P.S. 73 parents from being jumpy. The school’s parent association president Jose Gonzalez wrote on the blog EdVox that he was left with “countless questions” after abruptly learning of the school’s designation. He went on:

We do need more resources and support for our school, but we do not need this extreme shift. Most importantly, no matter what happens, the DOE and the Joint Intervention Team should involve PS 73 in all conversations about the future of our school.

Of course, parents’ skepticism of DOE assurances that the school will be safe could be on the mark. One school that the city tried to close in January, the School of Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship in Queens, was told that it was a school in good standing just months before the DOE announced that it wanted to phase it out. And this fall, the state could add more schools to its list of schools federally mandated to close or see its principal and staff replaced, Zarin-Rosenfeld said.

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