The April 11 meeting of Community Board 5 was largely a tale of two schools.
Based on a recommendation of its Education Committee, the board unanimously approved Department of Education plans to build a new school in Ridgewood on the site of the old St. Aloysius school property.
But it also roundly condemned the efforts of the DOE and Mayor Bloomberg to radically alter Grover Cleveland High School through the so-called “turnaround” process.
The board unanimously approved a resolution from its Education Committee calling on the DOE to continue Cleveland on the “restart” mode it began in September 2011.
Turnaround requires that a school be renamed and up to 50 percent of the present day faculty be replaced.
“You close the school on Friday, and the only one guaranteed to come back on Monday is the principal,” said Pat Grayson, chairwoman of the Education Committee. “It’s in the bag, but they will hold hearings anyway in case you don’t like it.”
Grayson said the restart process was to have given Cleveland a three-year window with new principal Denise Vittor, who has a track record for turning arounnd Queens Vocational and Technical HS.
Grayson and the resolution both say that even with faculty replacement, 25 percent of the school’s population does not consist of native English speakers.
“The same students will return to the school, presenting the same needs, looking for the same guidance, and, in many cases, feeling that they will lose the continuity, rapport and the sense of belonging that they now feel as students of Grover Cleveland High School,” states the resolution.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who was present at the meeting, backed the board and the community, which also have cited the school’s recent progress as a reason to keep it open.
“Anyone can give you emotional reasons for not closing a school,” Addabbo said. “If there is one school where there is a factual reason, it’s Grover Cleveland.”
The board, however, was in full agreement with the DOE recommendation that the city acquire the old St. Aloysius school building on Seneca Avenue and erect on the site a new, state-of-the-art school that would serve more than 440 children. The new building would be located on the same side of Seneca as PS 305, and would be separated from that school by Stockholm Street.
At a public hearing the night before, parents at 305 expressed concerns only for the safety of their children during the construction process.
They almost unanimously praised the DOE plan for a new school in Ridgewood, one they hope can be zoned to accommodate children leaving PS 305, which now serves children in pre-K through third grade.