The city Department of Education recently announced it will seek to relocate Richmond Hill High School freshmen from an annex building several blocks from the school back into the main building.
Currently, some of the freshmen are served in the former St. Benedict Joseph Labre Catholic School at 94-25 117 St. If the move is approved — it’s scheduled to come to a vote later this month — the ninth-graders will be moved back to the Richmond Hill High School building at 89-30 114 St. next September. Some of the new freshman classes will be held in trailers in the schoolyard.
The move is meant to accommodate a new high school the DOE plans to open at the St. Benedict’s site in September 2014, according to the educational impact statement the department released on the proposal.
Critics are arguing the relocation of the ninth grade would make the overcrowding situation at Richmond Hill High School worse as the annex was opened to decrease the student population in the building in the first place, but the DOE says enrollment in the school will decrease from 2,184 students this year to between 1,580 and 1,620 students in 2017-18. The department says Richmond Hill’s target capacity is 2,165 students.
“The enrollment reduction and re-siting is intended to provide an opportunity for Richmond Hill to concentrate on a smaller cohort of students in a consolidated location, and allow for a new school option to develop at [the St. Benedict’s site],” the EIS reads.
The plan confirms fears parents expressed when the school’s former principal, Wayne Anderson, was let go in September.
The DOE says the move will cost $78,120, but the department argues that money will be made up through a decrease in teacher salaries and material costs once the enrollment at Richmond Hill drops over the course of the next few years.
Should the Panel for Educational Policy not approve the relocation, the planned high school for the St. Benedict’s site would be put on hold.
Richmond Hill High School was one of seven schools that were slated for closure in 2012 by the DOE due to poor academic performance. However, a lawsuit by teacher unions against the city resulted in a court-appointed arbitrator ruling against the city and closure of the schools.
According to the EIS released this month, Richmond Hill’s four-year graduation rate rose from 57 percent in 2010 to 60 percent in 2012, and the percent of students graduating with a Regents diploma increased from 42 percent in 2010 to 58 percent in 2012.
Community Board 9 is expected to discuss and vote on a resolution opposing the relocation at its meeting Tuesday night. That resolution has already passed the board’s Education Committee.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. at Richmond Hill High School before the PEP votes on the plan on Nov. 26.