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Queens Chronicle

JHS 226 Virgil Grissom school collocation vote Wednesday

City says South Ozone Park school can handle new influx of students

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Thu Mar 21, 2013.

It won’t be closed, but JHS 226 is not happy about the city Department of Education’s plans for the building.

The DOE is proposing to collocate a new school at the junior high located at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park, and the decision is dÈj‡-vu all over again for a school community that remembers a disastrous experience with collocations a decade ago.

In 2003, a high school annex was collocated in the building, causing the student population in the facility built to handle just over 2,000 students to explode to nearly 3,000.

“It was like a brush fire waiting to happen,” said JHS 226’s Parent Coordinator Claudia Bethea. “Parents don’t want to relive that incident again.”

She said the situation in the school went awry during that collocation. Students were getting into fights with each other — and even teachers and the administration. Hallways were dangerously crowded. That collocation eventually ended and now the school’s population has dropped below 2,000, according to DOE records.

The agency’s memo about the collocation said the number of students in the building will increase when the new school is opened in September, because enrollment in JHS 226 will not decrease. The DOE said the school will only be operating at 88 percent capacity.

The building already houses a Beacon program and a District 75 school — PS Q233 — which serves 47 children with autism and other disabilities.

But the department stressed that it saw the building as “underutilized.”

However, some members of the school community disagree with that assessment and say what the DOE describes as “underutilized” is actually a perfect size for the student body that is there.

Bethea said she has gotten more than 600 parents to sign a petition opposing the collocation, which would bring in a new middle school, one in which admission would be through an application process administered by the Office of Student Enrollment.

“We have all these great things going on,” she said, noting that the school’s principal, Rushell White, has instituted a number of programs in the school that parents and students enjoy. Bethea said the school has displayed students’ art projects up on the walls to create a museum-like atmosphere and one classroom has been converted into a dance studio for dance classes.

“When you take those classrooms from us, what about our children?” she said.

Bethea said the city should instead spend time and money trying to reduce class sizes, especially if they are looking to move forward with collocations.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, proposed a resolution at Monday’s PEP meeting to stop collocations, as well as phaseouts. The motion failed.

Bethea said she was also worried what the plan would do to the school’s reputation.

The PEP will vote on the collocation, as well as a slew of others, at a meeting on March 20 at Brooklyn Technical High School.

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