By Patricia Adams
Nine city schools will be phased out or closed, according to a list released by The Department of Education (DOE).
As a result of the announcement from the DOE, Councilman Eric Ulrich, whose district includes Beach Channel High says he will circulate a petition to his fellow Queens council members to stop the proposed closures.
“As elected officials we don’t want them [the schools] to close,” said Ulrich. “We all share the same goals to improve education, but I don’t see these closures as the way to fix the problem.” Ulrich supported his position with the belief that closing one school and opening another does little to address the failing academic progress that has been seen at some of the schools for more than a decade.
“We need to put the schools that we have on the right course. Kids need stability and structure. If we’re closing schools, bringing in new principals and new teachers, we continue to take stability away from these students.” Ulrich says this is a classic example of band-aid measures that won’t hold up in the long term. “Kids need to come to school each day and know there is a system—there is order.”
The Department of Education announced its decision to phase Beach Channel High School out of operation beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. Beach Channel will begin phasing out one grade per year, with Grade 9 eliminated in 2010-2011; grade 10 eliminated in 2011-2012; and grade 11 will be eliminated in 2012-2013. Beach Channel will close in June 2013. Nearby, Jamaica High School, which also serves grades 9-12 will be phased out of operation during the 2010-2011 school year.
The eventual closure of Beach Channel will provide space at its current location of 100-00 Beach Channel Drive to house 27Q324, a new school. The DOE is proposing a new high school as Beach Channel phases-out. 27Q324 will open in 2010-2011 with grade 9 and will serve grades 9-12 at scale. DOE says the phase-out and eventual closure of Beach Channel and phase-in of 27Q324 will address the need to provide higher quality high school options throughout the City. According to a press release, the DOE says it will continue to assess the available space and needs for additional options at Beach Channel in 2011 and 2012.
The decision to eventually close the school is the result of a DOE evaluation and determination that the school does not have the ability to improve student performance. The department’s framework mandates that schools scoring either a D or an F in progress reports are subjected to the institution of school improvement measures. If no significant progress is made over a three-year time period, the DOE will implement a leadership change, restructure or possible closure.
The same is true for schools receiving a C for three years in a row and for schools that the Chancellor has determined lack the necessary capacity to improve student performance.
In accordance with feelings expressed by Councilmember Ulrich was a spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), District Representative for Queens High Schools, James Vasquez. “The UFT really feels that the DOE and the chancellor are responsible for every single school and every single child—the same way a teacher is responsible for every student in their classroom and the principal is responsible for every teacher in the building.”
Vasquez says the DOE has “abandoned” the schools. “The schools they’ve deemed to be failing and not achieving have been the same way for at least the past 7 years. Where has the DOE been?”
Instead, critics of the DOE’s intended plan say it will not serve students, their families or school faculty and staff. “They [DOE] have other choices,” said Vasquez. “They don’t have to upend students, parents and families.”
The public will have the opportunity to attend hearings scheduled at each school in early January. To submit public comment on the issue you can e-mail your comments to HS.Proposals@schools.nyc.gov. You may also leave verbal comments at 718-935-4414.
For more information on any of the intended citywide school closings, visit the DOE website at schools.nyc.gov.