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Without warning, Bed-Stuy school learns it could close in June

It was bad enough news when staff and students at the Academy of Business and Community Development in Bedford-Stuyvesant found out last month that its middle school grades might phase out.

But on Thursday, the all-boys student body was herded into the auditorium for an end-of-day assembly and received a more jolting fate from the school’s principal, Simone McIntosh: Not only would both the middle and high schools be closed, but both would be shuttered by the end of the year.

Shutting down a school in a single year is an unusual plan for the Department of Education, which usually phases out schools one year at a time until no grades remain.

The change in plans at ABCD came once DOE officials had a chance to look under the hood at the school and concluded that it didn’t make financial sense to keep either school open any longer. The school was in low demand from new students in the community – just 5 percent of fifth-graders in the district ranked it as their top choice – and its existing student population has dwindled in each grade.

This year’s senior class is a shell of the school’s inaugural class. In 2005, the school opened with 70 students, but just 16 remain. A total of just 110 students — 39 freshmen, 23 sophomores and 29 juniors — attend the high school.

DOE officials said they believed that if just the middle school was eliminated, a high school with just over 100 students would not be able to thrive based on its per-pupil resources.

The news was met with a mix of emotions from students and staff yesterday afternoon. Most students did not want to speak about it and teachers were instructed by supervisors not to talk to the reporters who milled outside the school after the day ended.

But inside the school at the assembly, teachers cried and consoled one another, according to a senior.

“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “The teachers here were good.”

If the plan is approved by the Panel for Educational Policy in February, as is expected, it would be an abrupt close to one of Mayor Bloomberg and ex-Chancellor Joel Klein’s more ambitious projects. Opened in 2005 as one the city’s small schools, ABCD, which shares a building with the still-expanding Leadership Prep Charter School, was meant to serve the black male students of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. Some ABCD students had spent time incarcerated, according to one teacher.

In many ways, the school’s mission was in line with Mayor Bloomberg’s much-hyped Young Men’s Initiative, a $127 million campaign to help young minority men with graduation and employment.

City Councilman Al Vann, a former principal who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant, said the school’s failure is an example of how the city has ignored that same population.

“Local community support for any school is crucial to its success and the DOE must now earn support and trust from the Bedford-Stuyvesant community in educating our Black males who have been poorly served by the Bloomberg Administration and previous administrations,” Vann said in a statement.

The DOE plans to open a new middle school to replace the one at ABCD, according to a fact sheet about the planned closure. Current ABCD middle school students will be offered seats in other District 13 schools for next year, while ninth-graders will be entered into a second round of the high school admissions process. Current sophomores and juniors will be offered seats in other District 13 high schools.