By Paula Katinas
Sunset Park — The Department of Education (DOE) has reversed its position on Charles Dewey Intermediate School and is now keeping the school open, according to officials.
Education officials said the school had made significant progress over the past year to warrant a second chance.
Jubilant Sunset Park community leaders began celebrating almost immediately after the announcement was made by the DOE on April 2.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez declared victory and said the school, located at 4004 Fourth Ave., deserved to be given a chance to improve.
“I am pleased with the DOE’s announcement and applaud Chancellor Walcott for his decision and leadership,” she said, referring to City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
Students in Bensonhurst also had good reason to cheer. The chancellor also decided to spare Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School at 5800 20th Ave.
Dewey I.S., also known as I.S. 136, had been targeted for closure by the DOE because of low student grades on city and state standardized tests.
Education officials had placed Dewey I.S. in the controversial “turnaround” program, in which the DOE closes a poor-performing school and opens a new school at the same site the next day with a new administration and a new teaching staff. Up to 50 percent of the Dewey I.S. teachers would have lost their positions at the school under the plan. Teachers would have had to apply for their own jobs.
“The DOE strives to ensure that all students in New York City have access to a high-quality school at every stage of their education,” a DOE statement issued on Feb. 28 read.
“By closing Charles Dewey and replacing it with a new school, the DOE is seeking to expeditiously improve educational quality on the Charles Dewey campus,” the statement read.
Gonzalez, working with Community Board Seven leaders and with parents and teachers, mounted an aggressive effort to get Dewey I.S. taken off the “turnaround” list.
Board Seven voted unanimously to support the idea of the school remaining open.
The councilwoman fired off letters to the chancellor, pointing out that the school has a lot going for it. Dewey I.S. has an impressive 92 percent student attendance rate. Forty percent of the students speak English as a second language, Gonzalez said. Twenty-five percent are special education students. Ninety-one percent of the youngsters qualify for free lunch.
The school also serves as a community center, according to Gonzalez, who said free English lessons and free computer classes are offered at the site on Saturdays.