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Union Square rally set to protest week's school closure hearings

Students and teachers from two high schools on the city’s chopping block are planning to join in protest on Wednesday — and they’re asking their allies from across the city to join in.

The Union Square rally comes during the final week of hearings before the Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, votes on 25 school closure proposals Feb. 9.

Students at Manhattan’s Legacy School for Integrated Studies are planning to walk out of their classes and head for Union Square just four hours before their school’s closure hearing. The walkout is the latest in a series of high-profile protest actions that have included a phone-banking session and a guerrilla appearance on “The Today Show” — activities chronicled in a video posted to YouTube over the weekend by the Save Legacy Coalition.

A Facebook page calling for a citywide walkout that day has attracted encouraging comments from city teachers and online commitments from more than 400 students.

Students and teachers from Washington Irving High School, located just blocks away from Legacy on the other side of Union Square, have plans to be on hand. Last week, Washington Irving teachers and parents handed out flyers announcing the rally and inviting members of the public to the school’s closure hearing on Tuesday.

The city is holding a second closure hearing on Tuesday for Brooklyn’s Academy of Business and Community Development, which was shocked to learn that its high school faced shuttering after originally escaping the city’s closure shortlist. The all-boys school, which opened in 2005, is one of four middle schools in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood that could be closed this year. Aided by the Coalition for Educational Justice, which has worked with a number of communities whose schools are on the closure list, including Legacy, ABCD parents are protesting outside the school today.

The hearings at Legacy, Washington Irving, and ABCD are among eight being held this week at schools the city wants to close or shrink. Each school has argued that Department of Education decisions provided the ingredients for poor performance. (The city held 10 hearings last week and another seven the week before that.)

In addition to the public hearings about closures that were announced in December, the city is also continuing its race through “early engagement” meetings at 33 other schools it has slated to undergo the “turnaround” school improvement process. Turnaround will require the schools to be closed and reopened immediately, with half of their teachers replaced. Today, Department of Education officials will visit at William E. Grady Career and Technical High School to discuss those plans, first with the staff and then with parents and members of the community.

The full list of closure hearings taking place this week is below. The hearings take place at 6 p.m. at the schools.

Frederick Douglass Academy IV Secondary School (Brooklyn)

Academy of Business and Community Development, Brooklyn
Washington Irving High School, Manhattan

I.S. 296 The Halsey School, Brooklyn
Legacy School for Integrated Studies, Manhattan

Samuel Gompers Career and Technical Education High School, Bronx

International Arts Business School, Brooklyn
Grace Dodge Career and Technical Education High School, Bronx

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