In 1980, then – New York City Schools Chancellor Frank Macchiarola started alternative schools to serve dropouts or kids on the verge of leaving school, many of whom have a record of disciplinary problems and too few credits to get into other programs like night schools.
Housed on the third floor of a junior high school, BCHS used to be one of six alternative programs of its kind. Formerly known as Bushwick Outreach, it served the community for twenty four years by providing classes, Regents examinations and transcript preparation for its students. Bushwick Outreach boasted a 70 - 80 percent graduation rate, more than other alternative high schools at the time. While only a few students finished on the traditional four-year timeline, the school graduated over 100 students a year, nearly one-third of its student body. At nearby Bushwick High School, the four-year graduation rate in 2001 was just 24 percent.
As a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Education officials quietly pushed a plan to reorganize the six alternative high schools for the system's oldest and hardest-to-serve students – a plan that would eliminate seats for older students. The NCLB Act barred schools that did not grant traditional diplomas from receiving federal funding. Bushwick Outreach had specific graduation requirements but did not issue diplomas; to get one, students had to bring their Outreach transcripts to the school they previously attended.
Bushwick Outreach became targeted as one of the city’s programs to be restructured into an official New York City public school. Teachers of Outreach felt a pressing need to keep serving the over-age and over-credited who would otherwise have no where else to go. Therefore, with the support of Make the Road By Walking, a local nonprofit, Bushwick Outreach teachers and students circulated a petition calling for an accredited, independent school at which students, parents and teachers would design a curriculum focusing on Latino and African cultures, and keep focus on older students. The campaign was a success, and the school was able to keep its doors open.
Partnered with New Visions for Public Schools, the largest education reform organization dedicated to improving the quality of education children receive in New York City's public schools and Manhattanville College, we continued to serve our older population and launched as a diploma granting formal public high school in September 2004 as Bushwick Community High School.