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Queens Chronicle

St. Demetrios celebrates school choice

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:39 am, Thu Feb 28, 2013.

St. Demetrios Jamaica Day School recently held its first open house carnival during National School Choice Week, raising awareness for educational options for families in New York.

The Greek Catholic School is located at 84-35 152 St. in Briarwood. Children gathered together in the gymnasium with teachers and parents playing games, getting face paintings, and eating cotton candy along with buttery popcorn.

Eigth-grader Natasha Samaroo, 13, said that she had a good time with her friends preparing for the event.

“I’m having a lot of fun. We actually have a clown here, and I’ve been blowing up ballons, helping with the face paintings and cotton candy,” said Samaroo.

Euthoxia Panos, who has been the principal of St. Demetrios for two years, said School Choice Week is an excellent tool for advocating registration so more children can attend the school.

“I figured it would be fun to have a carnival and have parents bring their kids to join, and watch our kids interact; also a chance to talk to the teachers, getting more of a feel of our school,” she said.

With approximately 110 children enrolled at St. Demetrios, Panos hopes the student body will continue to grow, making the school much stronger than it is now, and better known in the community.

According to Panos, it’s very hard to compete with public schools nowadays because parents don’t have the money to send their children to private school. She hopes that the economy gets better and helps private schools like St. Demetrios survive.

Several parochial schools in the city are being shut down, leaving many middle- and low-income families worried about saving Catholic education.

Mary Lathourakis, who teaches first grade at St. Demetrios, said parents should have a choice deciding where to send their kids to school.

“Growing up, I used to attend a parochial school,” Lathourakis said. “There was individual attention, smaller classes, and the students have a voice. Parents should always have an option choosing a school for their children if it benefits them.”

Among the measures reflected in School Choice Week is one that advocates say would help tremendously: tuition tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, including parochial ones. Bills that would establish the credits have been introduced at both the state and federal levels by Queens lawmakers, but they have not been enacted.

Such a law in New York would improve education by increasing high-quality options available to low-and middle-income families, according to the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability.

At least 10 states have adopted tuition tax credit plans helping families choose private institutions for their children.

“Anything that would promote private education and tax breaks for families is an excellent decision,” said Panos. “I hope New York adopts the education tax credit, because it could really help us out.”

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