Two Rockaway Schools Are Spared de Blasio’s Ax


A contentious fight to save P.S./M.S. 42 and M.S. 53 from closing is over for now, with the two schools remaining open for at least another school year.

The early morning decision to spare the schools from getting the ax, came from the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) after listening to close to nine hours of testimony from parents and elected officials in a meeting that began on Wednesday, February 28. Ten other NYC schools weren’t so lucky and will be forced to close.

In an unexpected move by the de Blasio administration last December, Renewal Schools P.S./M.S. 42 (488 Beach 60th Street) and M.S. 53 (10-45 Nameoke Street) found themselves on his agenda slated for closures, blindsiding the staff at both schools.

Jaime Haberstumpf, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) delegate has been at P.S./M.S. 42 for the past 25 years. She recalls December 18, 2017 vividly. “We were shocked when we got this news that our school would be completely closed, and no one would be returning,” Haberstumpf said. “Our school is thriving. Out of all the K-8 Renewal schools, ours did the best, we had the most improvement among all of them, our enrollment is up, grades are up and we have solid teacher attendance. Why was our school on the list?”

Infuriated, confused and determined not to close quietly, Haberstumpf and John Krattinger, also a UFT union representative, led the march to save their school.

“John and I got everyone involved. We were nonstop rallying parents, teachers, school aides, and community members activists. They saw us at every PEP meeting.  We weren’t about to let up,” Haberstumpf said.

Alongside passionate parents, concerned students and loyal teachers, supporters like Ken Cohen of the NAACP, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Donovan Richard’s office added strength to the movement.

Commenting on the victory, Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato and Councilman Donovan Richards' offices said, "We'd like to congratulate the students and parents of P.S./M.S. 42 and M.S. 53 for their successful advocacy to keep their schools open to continue learning with the friends and teachers they know and trust. Now, we must continue to invest in our existing neighborhood schools to both ensure full growth in our students and our surrounding community. These are our children and their education is worth fighting for!"

As for the future of the schools beyond next year, that remains to be seen. 

Department of Education Press Secretary Toya Holness, said, “The schools are going to stay open for the next school year and they’ll remain in the Renewal program. We will re-evaluate them again next year.  We carefully monitor and review Renewal schools on an ongoing basis.”

When asked if they think they’ll have to fight this fight every year, both Haberstumpf and Krattinger, in unison answered, “We hope not.”  But if they have to, they vow they will.

At least for now, both schools can breathe a sigh of relief as can the students that call P.S/M.S. 42 and M.S. 53 home.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Haberstumpf.