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Dominican families rally to preserve P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte

This story originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario, which supplied the translation.

Dozens of parents of P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte, located in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, demonstrated last week against the possible closing of the school that serves the largest population of newly arrived immigrant children.

The demonstrators, who were mostly Dominicans, also asked to maintain the name of Juan Pablo Duarte, no matter what happens with the school. Duarte was a founding father of the Dominican Republic, which is celebrating the bicentennial of his birth Jan. 26.

Carmen Rojas, president of the organization “Padres Abogando Por Sus Hijos” (Parents Advocating for Their Children), said Juan Pablo Duarte is among 36 elementary and middle schools that the city’s Department of Education could shut down at the end of the year. The school, which has a dual-language program in Spanish, has earned a D grade on its performance evaluation for the last two consecutive years.

“Ninety-five percent of children from the Dominican Republic and other countries who attend English as a Second Language classes come here. When a 10-year-old comes to this country in fifth-grade without speaking the language, he must compete with a kid who is six years ahead in English,” Rojas said. “Also, since $1.5 million in funding has been cut from this school since 2009, there isn’t enough money to make individual progress with each one of these kids.”

About maintaining the name, Rojas said: “If in the Dominican Republic we have two major avenues with the names of John F. Kennedy and George Washington, why do they want to close our school in the very heart of the Dominican community in New York, and once it’s closed, take away the name of our Founding Father?”

P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte is the oldest school in District 6, almost 110 years old.

The District 6 Community Education Council issued a resolution Nov. 5 addressed to Chancellor Dennis Walcott, in which it points out that the low performance of the school is due, among other things, to “the lack of adequate support from the DOE, budget cuts of $1.5 million since 2009 and school overcrowding, with more than 35 students per classroom.”

“That is why we are demanding that DOE restores the funding it cut from Juan Pablo Duarte’s budget, decreases class size and works with and supports the teaching body to maintain high quality in the bilingual programs,” the council wrote.

Janet Duran, president of the Juan Pablo Duarte Parent Association — who has 8-year-old twins in third grade and 6-year-old twins in first grade at the school — said what the school needs is more financial and technical support from the city.

El Diario is New York City’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper. Read more education news from El Diario.