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Lehman HS removed from closure roster, again, but will shrink

For the third time in just over a year, Herbert H. Lehman High School is being pulled off of the chopping block.

The Department of Education announced today that it would withdraw proposals to close Lehman and one other school, P.S. 140 in Queens. The two schools were among 24 facing closure votes at Monday’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

Department officials said they had reviewed the public comments made at the schools’ closure hearings and determined that they were likely to improve in the future. It’s a determination the department has made for a couple of schools each year, usually just days before the PEP is scheduled to vote on their closure plans.

Despite the announcement, Lehman will not actually stay open in its current form. The department announced that the school would shrink over time — from more than 2,700 students this year to about 1,000 in the future — and would still have three new schools open in its building next year, for a total of six in the building.

Principal Rose Lobianco said at the school’s closure hearing last month that the school was poised to improve after already shrinking by more than 700 students in the last year. Having a smaller register reduced some of the pressure on the school’s resources, she said, allowing teachers to help students earn more credits.

The school could have gotten even better had the department not subjected it to multiple overhaul plans in recent years, Lobianco said. The school had been slated to undergo the “turnaround” closure process last year before a labor arbitrator ruled that the turnaround plan violated the city’s contracts with the teachers and principals unions, and it lost a third of its teachers over the summer as a result.

The turmoil took a toll on students’ and staff’s “emotional stability,” Lobianco said at the hearing. “If our community had not experienced all of these constant changes, our growth could have been even more dramatic.”

In addition to shortening the list of closure votes, the department also trimmed next week’s PEP agenda by moving votes on 11 other proposals about how to use school space to a second meeting this month.

The deferred votes include those about opening the New American Academy Charter School in Brooklyn’s Tilden campus and adding East Harlem Scholars Academy Charter School II to an East Harlem building where parents had other plans. Both of the proposals are likely to attract large numbers of opponents to the second meeting, on March 20.

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