Dr. Kathleen Cashin, superintendent for Region 5 of the New York City Department of Education, outlined a plan for a John Adams High School Jump Start Academy, a separate school for 500 freshmen, Tuesday night at a meeting of the Howard Beach Civic Forum.
The Jump Start Academy will begin this summer for incoming freshman at the main building, while the new facility is renovated. The new building is the former St. Clement Pope elementary school at 120-27 141st Street. “It’s beautiful, it has wood paneling, nice blackboards, bulletin boards, and it’s very teacher-friendly,” John Adams Principal Grace Zwillenberg said.
Incoming students will have to apply to the school, which will feed into John Adams in the 10th grade. They will be determined by a geographic lottery, which is open to any student who is zoned for the high school. The deadline for applying to the program is June 1st, and classes will begin in the summer for students who want to accumulate extra credits.
There are no academic restrictions for the Jump Start Academy. Cashin urged all serious students to apply. “This is not just going to be 3s and 4s,” she said, referring to higher standardized test scorers. “If you are not going to be involved, don’t apply.”
Students need 44 credits to graduate from John Adams. If students take and pass all the classes available in the Jump Start Academy, they will enter their sophomore year with 19.5 credits, and if they passed their remaining classes, would be finished with most of their high school work by their senior year. They would then be able to take courses at York College through John Adams for college credit.
The course load in the academy will be double English/language arts or single language arts and art; double mathematics, science, physical education and an advisory program. If students fall behind they will be eligible for the extended-day tutoring program.
The Jump Start Academy will help relieve the congestion at John Adams, one of the most overcrowded schools in the city. The school will use the extra space in the main building for extended-day and enrichment courses.
“John Adams, for decades, has been an overcrowded school, but it has managed to go on despite the obstacles. The single greatest predictor of four-year graduation rates is promotion from the ninth grade. My goal is to make sure as much as we can that 100 percent of our ninth graders are promoted. I don’t want your children to be playing catch up any more,” Cashin said.
There are currently 3,500 students in the main building at John Adams, which is on Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park. Some parents told Cashin that they were impressed with the Jump Start program, but were still likely to send their children to private schools. Cashin cited the Jump Start Academy and called it one of many programs the DOE is pursuing to turn the public school system around.
She added that the program is one way to mix smaller learning environments with more comprehensive learning environments. No classes in the Jump Start Academy will have more than 28 students. “We think small high schools are wonderful, but we realize comprehensive high schools offer more courses and more options for students.”
The Jump Start Academy is possible because St. Clement Pope school was closed by the Diocese of Brooklyn last year due to mounting debt and low enrollment, problems that are now affecting the Catholic school system citywide. The Diocese historically sells its school buildings to the city rather than private developers.
Cashin will appear again before Community Board 10, which covers South Queens (including Howard Beach and Lindenwood), on April 7th to follow up on educational issues that came up during an earlier visit to the board. One of the issues was a suggested extension of PS 146 from a K-6 school to a K-8 school, but PS 146 was not brought up at Tuesday’s meeting.