Thursday, October 7, 2010

Timeline for Opening Maspeth HS Discussed, Push Continues for Local Zone

By Eric Yun

A community meeting to discuss the opening of the new 1,000-seat high school currently under construction at the former Restaurant Depot site in Maspeth turned testy as parents and civic groups demanded the school be locally zoned.

Held at P.S. 58 by the City Department of Education’s Office of Portfolio and Planning, the meeting included a discussion of the timeline of the school opening and the type of school parents wanted for their children.

Earlier this year, a survey was conducted to determine what type of school parents wanted to see at the new site. The overwhelming response was for a regular high school without any special pilot programs. The school should have strong college and job prep courses and state of the art technology. One parent spoke about the need for a “normal” high school. This school would be competitive academically and feature various sports and clubs.

Alex Shub from Portfolio said he understand parents want a competitive school that sets kids up for future success, and he “guarantees we can build a school that can do just that.”

There is a complicated timeline for the opening of the new school. Currently, proposals from prospective principals are being evaluated to see if there are any that match the community needs. If a leader is found before mid-December, the school can be fast-tracked to open in 2011. Under this scenario the school would be incubated at the recently opened Metro High School, meaning extra space there would be used until the Maspeth site opens in 2012.

If a suitable principal is not found by mid-December, the city will not rush to open the school. Instead, it will wait to select a principal’s proposal until the spring or fall and open the school in 2012.

The issue most parents wanted to discuss, however, was the idea of zoning the school locally. The DOE generally likes to provide all city students a choice when it comes to attending a high school. After months of debate and community input, the city has decided to give School District 24 priority. This means that any student from District 24 that puts the new high school first in their application will have the first priority of entering the school. Afterwards, the school would be filled with anybody throughout the city.

The biggest fear from parents is their children who live just blocks away will lose a chance to attend the new school because another District 24 student from areas such as Ridgewood or Corona are admitted. In the unlikely event all Dis- trict 24 eighth graders apply for the new school a random lottery will be held to see who is admitted.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Mid- dle Village) stressed the importance of being calm. “We have to work together to make the most out of this new school,” she said. It is important to understand the admission process, and Crowley believes kids who truly want to go to this school will be able to be admitted.

There were some who believed settling for a District 24 school instead of a locally zoned school is despicable. Robert Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic Association, bickered with Crowley over the decision. “We want our kids to walk to school. We demand a locally zoned school,” Holden said. Holden believes Crowley, who voted against the project in the City Council, has now completely given up the fight to have the school locally zoned.

Republican candidate for the State Senate Anthony Como also promised to fight for a locally zoned school. “The fight is never over until we win,” he said. “Until we win for a locally zoned school, the fight never ends.”

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