Thursday, January 14, 2010

Officials Want More Metro Ave HS Seats for Glendale Students

By Conor Greene

As the Metropolitan Avenue school complex gets closer to its anticipated opening this fall, the battle over who gets to occupy the building is continuing with officials pushing for more seats for students in the Glendale area.

On Monday, members of Community Board 5’s Education Committee agreed to present three resolutions to the full board regarding the new complex, with features a 1,000 seat high school to be shared between District 24 and District 28, along with a 1,000seat 6-12 school dedicated solely for District 28.

The three resolutions call for 200 additional seats in the high school for students in District 24 so the two districts would more evenly split the total number of new high school seats. It also asks that a “second tier” be created so that priority shifts to students in PS 91’s zone if the 125 seats in each grade level currently assigned to District 24 aren’t filled from students in the PS/IS 87 and PS/IS 113 areas. The third resolution asks that the high school be opened to both ninth and tenth graders in its first year, instead of just freshmen as proposed.

The resolutions were expected to be voted on by the full CB 5 membership at its monthly meeting this past Wednesday. Check next week’s Forum West for an update on the vote.

In December, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) wrote to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein asking that a secondary zone be created limited to District 24 students to ensure the area doesn’t lose part of its 125 seat allocation. “The people of Glendale and Middle Village are in dire need of high school options and those families just outside the local zone should be given preference… before the school opens up to the rest of Queens,” she wrote.

Two weeks later, Crowley wrote to Klein to request that “immediate action” is taken to alleviate “dire overcrowding” in District 24. She proposed that the new Maspeth High School, which won’t be ready until 2012, be opened up in the available space at the Metropolitan Avenue complex, since that facility won’t be filled to capacity for several years. Once the Maspeth High School is complete, the students, teachers and administrators would simply move to the new building.

“As I understand, the [DOE] plans to incrementally ‘grow’ the two new schools located on the Metropolitan Avenue Complex,” wrote Crowley. “During the first years these schools are open the building will be at approximately 25% capacity. I believe we can take immediate action to alleviate the overcrowding of Queens high schools without sacrificing the level of education… If we act now to put together a school leadership team and have the administration for the Maspeth High School to start teaching children as early as the fall of this year.”

The issue of only opening the next high school up to one grade at a time has been met with criticism from some officials and parents due to the current situation. “The DOE’s argument that new schools do better when grades are phased in does merit consideration, but our Queens high schools are massively overcrowded, so delaying utilization of 1,000 new high school seats for many years can’t be in the best interested of our Queens high school students,” Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who is a CB 5member and the Borough President’s appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy, told The Forum.

The DOE said last month that parents and officials had several weeks to comment on the proposed zoning boundaries. The department didn’t immediately return a message for comment on the zoning proposal or the plan to open the school only to 9th grade, and Crowley’s office didn’t receive a formal response to either December letter.

The overcrowding situation in Queens has forced a number of high schools to operate on split sessions. According to Fedkowskyj, Francis Lewis is at 175% capacity on five sessions, Forest Hills High School is at 160% capacity on three sessions, Cardozzo is at 150% capacity on three sessions, and both Grover Cleveland and Newtown are at about 120% capacity while operating on multiple sessions.

At Monday’s meeting, attendees including D24 President Nick Comaianni suggested the three requests be submitted to the DOE as separate resolutions to prevent them all from being rejected at once. “Taking seats away from Forest Hills to give to us is not happening,” he said. “The reality is, Forest Hills will fight tooth and nail for those seats.”

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