Erasmus Hall Educational Campus
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Erasmus Hall, one of New York's most storied high schools -- and perhaps its most beautiful -- has gone through difficult times and many changes in the past 25 years. The famous school in Flatbush and is now home to five small schools.
The school's roots go back to 1787 when it was founded as a private academy for 26 boys, becoming the first secondary school ever chartered by the state Regents. Designated a city landmark in 1966, the original white clapboard lapboard building has fallen into disrepair. Current plans are for it to be restored and used by the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Between 1903 and 1940 the Board of Education constructed the collegiate Gothic buildings where students attend classes today. Those buildings surround the original Erasmus, circling a city block in a busy commercial area of Flatbush. Inside, the campus features a library with stained glass windows, interesting architectural details and some awkward classroom spaces. It underwent a costly and somewhat controversial renovation in the 1990s.
Enrollment once exceeded 7,000 at Erasmus which has scores of famous alumni including Barbra Streisand, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to its music program, Shaggy (or, as it likely says on his diploma, Orville Richard Burrell), Mickey Spillane and Beverly Sills.
The school went into decline in the latter part of the 20th century. In 1994, the city created three new high schools at the Erasmus Hall Campus: High School for Humanities, High School for Science and Math and High School for Business. The move did not improve things. There were discipline problems in the building, with many overage students who did not attend class. Test scores and graduation rates remained low, and all three Erasmus schools appeared on the state's list of failing schools.
By 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Department of Education moved to shut the Erasmus schools. In their place, the department created three high schools -- Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, High School for Service and Learning, and High School for Youth and Community Development along with two 6 through 12 schools,the Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration and Science, Technology and Research Early College High School, known as STAR. Some of the schools have been quite successful. STAR has a graduation rate of over 90 percent and a good record of getting students into college. Others continue to struggle.
The schools each have their own section of the building but share facilities, such as the library, and some share classes as well, including Advanced Placement offerings. Staff members from all schools collaborate on keeping students out of the halls and in classes.
Erasmus' grand front entrance remains locked and students enter through the back door, passing through metal detectors on their way. They rarely, if ever, use the lovely courtyard, now used for parking. (Gail Robinson, August 2012)
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