West Side High students pleading to save their school

Students and faculty at the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School called it their last attempt at saving their school.

They held a rally Monday asking the Panel for Educational Policy to vote against the Department of Education’s plan to relocate the school.

“I just got here, but in my old school, I didn’t really have a lot of opportunities. I feel like in this school, I could do softball. They have a gym. They have a lot of activities. I could finish school faster,” student Yesevel Javier said.

The Department of Education plan would swap buildings with the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem.

Schools Chancellor David Banks says West Side High has a “significant amount of space and dwindling enrollment.” Enrollment at the school has decreased from 500 students in 2017 to 230 in 2022.

Banks says the Young Women’s Leadership School serves about 500 girls and has an extensive waiting list.

“We want to put Young Women’s Leadership in a space where they would have the opportunity to grow, and it would ultimately help me and help us meet the demands of the parents, especially of Black and brown girls who want to go to that school, Banks said.

The plan has been met with significant controversy. West Side High is a transfer high school, meaning many who attend have learning disabilities, are disenfranchised or are from underserved communities.

The school also houses a daycare, a health clinic and other programs which critics say would be hard to implement in the East Harlem space.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Public Advocate Jumanee Williams wrote a letter to the chancellor opposing the plan, citing a concern for the safety of students.

“Gang conflicts between neighborhoods and specific housing projects with serious and serious gang-involved youth have been part of the West Side’s work since inception,” Williams said.

At a virtual hearing Monday, students from the Young Women’s Leadership School spoke to the panel, pleading with them to vote in favor of the Department of Education’s plan.

But some students at West Side High were emotional as they pleaded their case as to why the school should stay. West Side High has been around for 50 years and students say it is important to keep its legacy alive.