Parents, students and leaders at a New York City charter school squared off with Department of Education officials Tuesday as they made their case for keeping their school open.
The Department of Education made the decision to shutter the middle school at Opportunity Charter School earlier this month for failing to meet state standards, according to education officials. It could close at the end of the middle school year when a final decision is made in the next few weeks, but parents and leaders are pleading their case.
Kanye Paulin, a seventh-grader who's in his second year at the school, teared up at the thought of having to return to public school.
"I need my school to stay open," he told News 4 after the hearing.
"I feel safe in this school, and I know a lot of people, and I can talk to them if I have a problem," he said.
"Where would I put him? There is not another school like Opportunity Charter," said his mother Layta Downs.
More than 50 percent of students at Opportunity Charter have a disability, according to spokesman Jason Maymon. He said the school asked the DOE to take its student population into consideration.
"We serve a high number of students of disabilities and we serve a number of kids who have failed at traditional public schools," he said.
A DOE spokesman said in a statement, "Opportunity Charter School was given clear performance benchmarks over the last five years, and the middle-school grades did not meet or make progress towards meeting them."
"The DOE is committed to providing every New York City student with a high-quality education and we are reviewing OCS' appeal," he said.
DOE officials say that the school failed to meet or exceed district averages for students with disabilities' performance on state English and math exams, and failed to meet or exceed citywide averages for students with disabilities' performance on Regents exams.
In its four years of the current charter, the middle school grades at Opportunity Charter School did not meet any of the performance-based standards, and met only four of 22 goals, DOE officials say.
The high school, on the other hand, has shown gains, and isn't at risk of closure.
The Opportunity Charter School serves an economically disadvantaged population, with nearly nine in 10 students eligible for meal assistance and a student population that is 98 percent either black or Hispanic, Maymon says.