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Queens Chronicle

Two schools hailed; two more defended

CEC 24 lauds new sites at CTK, St. Aloysius; condemns HS ‘turnaround’

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 pm

Two new schools planned within District 24 were greeted with enthusiasm by members of the Community Education Council on Tuesday night.

But council members in the same session passed two grim resolutions decrying the Department of Education’s decision to place Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood and Newtown High School in Elmhurst on the list of schools slated for so-called turnaround designation.

The council also unanimously passed a resolution approving the Middle Village Preparatory Charter School, which is being planned for the campus of Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village.

The school will serve grades 6 through 8, and while CTK officials are leading the planning, the new entity will be a tenant utilizing more than 50,000 square feet that right now is sitting idle in the building.

The council said MVPCS will have amenities such as an auditorium, large gym and parking that often are unavailable to startups.

And they also expressed gratitude to the organizers for their open approach and lines of communication during the startup process.

Michael Michel, president of CTK, was present for the vote. He said there still are many more approvals the school needs to secure before September 2013, but that he is optimistic.

He also said it will fill a need in CEC 24.

“You heard tonight how overcrowded some of the schools are,” he said. “When we open this up, we will have room for 360 children from Council 24.”

The council and parents from PS 305 in Ridgewood also were visibly happy discussing plans for the 444-seat school that the city is planning on Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood.

The school will be built on the site of the old St. Aloysius School. The new school will be separated from PS 305 by Stockholm Street, and CEC 24 President Nick Comaianni said the board is planning to make it some sort of extension of PS 305, which teaches children from pre-kindergarten to grade 3.

He said the new building may start out with grades 4 and 5.

“We want to build every school as a K to 8 school,” he said. ‘But that may not be how we use it.”

The St. Aloysius building would be demolished. DOE officials have said opening a new school by September 2015 would require an “aggressive” building schedule, but is doable.

Comaianni also said the new school will require redistricting. And he cautioned some parents in the room who were enthusiastic about the new school that they might be inconvenienced, especially with the building being so close to CEC 24’s boundary line.

“You might live closer to [PS] 81 and find yourself living in 305’s district,” he said.

On a more somber note, the council condemned the continuing plans to shut down and reorganize Grover Cleveland and Newtown.

The schools are among 26 that have been targeted by the DOE and the Bloomberg administration for failure to make progress on things like graduation rates in recent years.

Currently operating under “restart” programs, both schools would be renamed. Up to 50 percent of the teaching staff would be replaced, and possibly the principals

The CEC resolution praised new Cleveland Principal Denise Vittor, and asked that she be given the three years under restart that she was promised back in September.

“We don’t know about Newtown yet, but Grover Cleveland is already showing results,” Comaianni said. “We want Denise to have the opportunity to continue.”

Under turnaround, Grover Cleveland students also would lose a partnership formed with Lenovo, one of the world leaders in computer technology, on a program in which students design mobile applications, or apps, for personal electronic equipment. They also would lose a partnership with the Marriott Corporation. Newtown High students would stand to lose a partnership with Johns Hopkins University should turnaround go into effect.

“I guess there’s nothing that says the new schools can’t reapply,” Comaianni said. “But the partnerships would be cancelled because they will be new schools operating under new federal regulations.”

The council is asking that Newtown and its present staff also be given the full three years promised under the restart designation.

In other council business, representatives from the DOE’s offices of Student Enrollment and Portfolio Planning were on hand to answer questions about kindergarten overcrowding.

The issue is a particular problem in IS/PS 49, which as of now has filled all 75 kindergarten slots for September 2012, and has 57 more applicants who will be offered alternate placements.

Bonnie Gross, executive of student enrollment in Queens for the DOE, said all children not placed in their district schools would be placed on a waiting list, and that they keep that slot even if parents accept outside placement.

She also said that kindergarten waiting lists have the fastest vacancy turnover in the city, along with ninth grade, and that waiting lists often get whittled down.

Welcome to the discussion.