The city's lone Arabic and English language middle school could be getting a complete makeover that would transform it into a high school in the wake of a report that reveals it is failing to attract students.
Under the plan proposed by the Department of Education, the Khalil Gibran Academy would move from its current location on Navy Street and become a high school at the Metropolitan Corporate Academy building on Schermerhorn Street in the academic year of 2012-2013. The last set of eighth-graders would also attend classes that year.
"Khalil Gibran has struggled to recruit and retain middle school students," read a report prepared by the DOE. "The number of students attending the school each year has substantially declined."
The school was originally designed by its founder, Debbie Almontaser, as both a middle school and high school. But Almontaser was never able to implement her curriculum, as she was fired before the Khalil Gibran Academy opened in 2007.
Her ouster was the culmination of a media maelstrom revolving around a quote in the New York Post in which she refused to renounce a T-shirt design that read, "Intifada NYC."
Soon, she was being called a terrorist sympathizer who hoped to build a "madrassa" — Arabic for "school," but often mistakenly thought of as a terrorist school — in Brooklyn.
Since Almontaser's departure the school has operated out of the spotlight.
But the city's report, released earlier this month, reveals that things are not going well at Khalil Gibran.
Enrollment in the sixth grade sharply dropped from 58 kids in 2009 to only 35 in 2010. In 2007, the school had 60 sixth-graders in its founding class. The next year, only 24 were in the seventh grade. In 2010 total enrollment reached a high of 115, but this year it dropped slightly to 111, the report stated.
"As enrollment declines, the school could lose the resources necessary to sustain a high-functioning learning environment," read the statement. "As a result, the learning outcomes for students attending Khalil Gibran could be severely compromised."
The report added that "very few" incoming middle-school students in District 13 — which includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, DUMBO and parts of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope — listed Khalil Gibran on their list of preferred schools.
"In 2010, Khalil Gibran was among the group of schools that received the lowest number of sixth grade applications in District 13," according to the report. "In addition, only 18 percent of students who applied to Khalil Gibran ranked it within their top three choices."
The report concludes by stating, "The DOE believes that Khalil Gibran should still continue to be an option for high school students as originally planned in 2007," but does not elaborate further.
An e-mail to Almontaser was not returned. A spokesman for the Department of Education would comment byond the report and disregarded a request to speak with the current principal of the school, Beshir Abdellatif.
Three employees who left the school on Tuesday afternoon refused to comment.