By David Harvey
As predicted by concerned parents at a public meeting last month: The co-location of the first class of the new Maspeth High School at the Queens Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills is a done deal.
The Department of Education (DOE) proposal to incubate a Maspeth High School within the campus next year was approved last week by the NYC Panel For Education Policy (PEP) in a unanimous vote.
The Queens Metropolitan Campus houses the Queens Metropolitan High School and the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, which will serve grades six through eight next year, before eventually expanding to grade 12.
The new school will have approximately 175 to 225 ninth graders next year, and the Queens Metropolitan Campus—with the Maspeth students—will be operating at only 72 percent capacity, according to the DOE. The Maspeth high school’s own building—being built at 54-40 74th Street—is scheduled to open in 2012.
The PEP vote took place as scheduled on March 1 and was preceded by several community meetings conducted by the DOE to garner public opinion—discussions that were often very contentious.
At a meeting on February 9 at the Queens Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills, parents, community groups and City Council representatives largely expressed contempt for the proposal during a public comment period that stretched over two hours.
“Discussion has subsided since the vote,” said Queens PEP representative Dmytro Fedkowskyj. “A recent open house by the proposed Maspeth school leader was highly attended by many parents from within District 24 and parents are excited about the new high school option.”
Several concerns were raised throughout the public comment period, from possible bullying to structural problems with the current building such as missing cameras and doorknobs. The most contentious was whether the Maspeth High School students would have a building to move into after next year.
“I am extremely disappointed and dismayed that the concerns of the community and elected officials have been shut out by the Department of Education,” Councilwoman Karen Kozlowitz (D-Forest Hills) said. “The process of planning for the incubation into the Metropolitan Avenue Campus was never designed to be responsive to the community.”
After the meeting on February 9, Kozlowitz wrote a letter to Schools Chancellor Cathie Black—cosigned by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, and Assembley members Andrew Hevesi and Mike Miller—that asked for a written statement from the DOE that the Maspeth high school students would be co-located for only one year.
Black’s response reiterated that the Department is committed to moving Maspeth High School to its long-term location by September 2012. “Based on all the information available to us, we have no reason to believe these plans will be derailed or delayed in any way,” she said.
According to DOE spokesperson Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, the school is on track to open as scheduled.
“At the end of the day, the big issue is the worry that [the Maspeth high school students] won’t move out,” he said. “The fact is, we have a close to perfect, if not perfect, track record on getting new schools open on time.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s budget proposal and recommended teacher layoffs will affect 35 percent of the teachers at the Queens Metropolitan Campus. Zarin-Rosenfeld said that with the budgets under revision, there is no way to determine how many teachers the new school will have, and how many will remain at the campus.