district 79

extra boost

school violence

New York

City replacing two Rikers schools with one smaller program

Teachers at the only two schools on Rikers Island learned today that their schools will close next year. In their stead, a new school will open — one with a smaller and possibly new set of teachers. The change is part of a wider attempt to end programs under the city's alternative schools office, known as District 79, that city officials believe are ineffective, Department of Education officials said today. Earlier this year, the city announced it was also closing its only school designed to transition students from detention back into mainstream high schools. "Despite some of our best efforts, we're not making the gains for the students in some of the specialized programs," said Timothy Lisante, District 79's deputy superintendent for corrections and detentions. In an interview today, Lisante and District 79 Superintendent Cami Anderson said that consolidating the two programs would allow for smoother day-to-day operations of the school. Restarting the program will also give the city the opportunity to redesign its placement process, directing some students towards coursework that will prepare them to return to their community high schools and giving others more vocational training. "The prime vision here is to do everything we can to create a program that will accelerate [student's] progress so they can return to their home school or, if they're older, go into a rigorous GED program," Anderson said. But teachers union officials are crying foul at the city's timing, arguing that the last-minute announcement was disrespectful to the school's teaching staff.