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City getting federal grants to assist with long-planned closures

The city is getting a total of just under $60 million in federal grants to help dozens of struggling schools.

The grants, which the State Education Department formally announced today, are hardly unexpected. In July, the city and teachers union hashed out an eleventh-hour deal on teacher evaluations to clear the way for 33 low-performing schools to receive them.

The surprise is that 11 school closures — many of which the city had planned since 2009 — are being chalked up to “turnaround,” an overhaul model that the city said it was dropping.

Turnaround requires a new principal, most teachers replaced, and organizational changes — all hallmarks of the city’s longstanding closure program, in which low-performing schools phase out and new schools open in their place. But for months, the city had not mentioned turnaround as an option.

In fact, back in May, when it looked like the city would have to filed its grant application without the UFT’s support, the city said it was abandoning its plan to use the turnaround model and would instead adopt the less-invasive “restart” approach. And this summer, the city said it would go ahead with 14 restarts and 19 transformations, which leave schools open but give them extra resources. It said nothing about turnarounds.

Today’s announcement indicates that millions of federal dollars are going to 16 new schools, two of them charter schools, opening in the space vacated as the 11 low-performing schools phase out.

Some of the closure plans were announced even before the state named the schools the city would have to overhaul to get federal funds. A union lawsuit blocked the closures last year, but the city succeeded on its second try this spring. The state signed off on the closures in July but cautioned that the city’s strategy might be leaving some students unserved.

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