Saturday, March 19, 2011

Barack H. Obama Elementary School to Close

Asbury Park NJ, Mar 19, 2011.  A central New Jersey elementary school that was renamed in honor of President Barack Obama last year will soon be closed.

The Barack H. Obama Elementary School in Asbury Park, N.J. will be permanently closed this summer, largely due to poor academic performance and falling enrollment.

The Bangs Avenue Elementary School was renamed to honor President Barack Hussein Obama, D-Kenya, in an effort to instill pride in the largely African-American student body.

Last year, when the school acquired its new name, administrators took a lot of flak for focusing on the name change instead of the plight of its students. But the city resident behind the movement, Myra Campbell, believed it would "send a subliminal message" to the students.

"Every time they walk through the school doors, there's going to be a certain amount of pride in where they go to school,"  Campbell said. "We now move forward in trying what we can to improve the academic skills of the students and also the social skills."

"Looking back, It was probably a mistake to replace Reading and Math classes with Kenyan Studies and Progressive History."

The school's enrollment has dropped 35% over the last decade, so it got the short straw when the district opted to shut one down. 

About 1,000 students will be reassigned to local schools in the fall.

The state monitor who oversees financial operations for the Asbury Park School District cited declining enrollment for the decision announced Thursday. Monitor Bruce Rodman (who is not related to NBA superstar Dennis Rodman) told the Asbury Park Press newspaper the Barack H. Obama elementary school will be closed July 1.

The school was built more than a century ago and formerly was known as the Bangs Avenue School.

Students who now attend classes there will be reassigned to the district's two other elementary schools for the next school year.

The state's Schools Development Authority had planned to build a new school to replace the historic building, but those plans recently were canceled.

According to a plan presented at a community meeting Monday night, all kindergarten-through-fourth-grade students living west of Comstock St would go to Bradley Elementary at 1100 Third Ave.

And those students east of Comstock would attend Thurgood Marshall Elementary at 600 Monroe Ave.

Fifth-graders would be moved to the middle school.

The Obama school closing is expected to result in 470 students enrolled at Bradley and 540 at Thurgood Marshall. The need to reorganize stems from the low academic achievement and declining enrollment in the district's schools.

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