Parents and faculty members at JHS 8 in Jamaica have just one word for education officials who are considering colocating a new school in their building on 167th Street:
The Panel for Education Policy is expected to vote on March 20 on a measure that would place a new middle school, designated 28Q287, in the four-story school, which already houses JHS 8 and the York Early College Academy.
On Tuesday night the Department of Education had a public hearing at the school to take comments from parents, students and teachers.
The city says it is responding to poor student achievement and poor grades for the school for three years running.
They say adding a third school to the building would help reduce the size of JHS 8, while keeping the same number of students in the building for maximum use.
Members of Community Education Council 28 boycotted the public hearing en masse, as they did nearly two weeks ago for a hearing on the proposed closure of PS 140 in South Jamaica.
But those who did speak inside the auditorium said the collocation proposal will not alleviate the difficulties, and could add more.
“No teacher would be here if they thought this was best for our students,” said JHS 8 teacher Philip Henry. “And I can say our students because I love each and every one of the kids I teach.”
Band director Aaron Harper agreed.
“I tell people that I have 200 kids,” he said, “and about 600 nieces and nephews.”
Many said the inclusion of the York Early College Academy or YECA required new administrative spaces and created difficulties in scheduling use of common areas such as the cafeteria, gym and even staircases.
“Are you going to schedule some children to have lunch at 2:15?” asked one teacher.
Joanne Franco, a self-proclaimed YECA mom, said the money that the city is planning to spend on creating a new school could go a long way toward solving some of the many problems the DOE claims exist.
“Stop fighting us and fight with us to help the students here get the things they need,” she said. “We are not statistics.”
She pointed out that even reducing the number of children in the school itself would not reduce the large class sizes if they are forced to relinquish classrooms to a new 28Q287.
City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), a graduate of the school, was unable to attend the meeting. But through a spokesman and during a telephone interview following the meeting, he also blasted the DOE plan.
He, like Franco and others, said the resources would be better spent on the two existing programs.
“They need computers; they need books,” Comrie said. “These students need the help now. This move just doesn’t make sense.”
Numerous children from JHS 8, which is geared toward the the arts, fear they would lose classroom space and programs to such a degree that the arts emphasis could be lost.
Teacher Monica Simone has been at the school for four years, and apparently has the profession in her family’s blood.
And she said the DOE has a decidedly spotty record for such moves in recent years.
“Recently I was at another one of these hearings at my brother’s school — Andrew Jackson,” she said. “Or at least it used to be Andrew Jackson. Last year they turned it into four schools. Now they’re closing.”
Special education teacher David Spraragen offered some free advice that incorporated math and Benjamin Franklin.
“Two is company,” Spraragen said. “Three is a crowd.”