Parents are once again sounding the battle cry against the middle school choice program that the city has proposed to implement in southern Queens and are planning to express their ire over the move at the Community Education Council District 27 meeting this coming Monday.
“We really don’t want middle school choice at all,” said Theresa Fonal, the president of the Parent Teacher Association at PS 146 in Howard Beach, who organized a rally against the proposed program in August. “Our PTA contacted most of the schools in District 27, and a lot of them had no clue about middle school choice at all. No one told us they’re in favor.”
The city Department of Education has proposed the middle school choice program for District 27, which includes schools in Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Howard Beach, part of Jamaica, Broad Channel, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park and Far Rockaway.
The CEC must approve the middle school choice plan before it is implemented, but it has yet to vote on the proposal. It was first expected to vote on the program at its meeting last July, but that has been pushed back indefinitely because of concerns from parents and elected officials that parents had too little information about middle school choice.
If the council approves the plan, parents in the district could request that their child attend any of its middle schools. Parents would have to fill out a form ranking the schools they wanted their child to attend, and the city would match students with schools based on those rankings.
City officials have argued that the choice program would provide pupils and parents with more options and allow students who believe they are stuck in a bad school to attend another. While Bart Haggerty, Councilman Eric Ulrich’s (R-Ozone Park) chief of staff, called that goal laudable, he also said that there were concerns students already in good schools could lose their seats in the building for which they’re zoned.
Students now receive priority for their zoned school —meaning they have a seat in the middle school that is typically closest to them — and the DOE has emphasized that policy would continue with school choice.
But, parents have said they are worried that should their student apply to a school they like outside of their zone but are not admitted there, they will not be able to return to their zoned school.
“I agree 100 percent with the DOE’s goals of providing every child with a quality education, but that can’t be at the expense of children who already have one,” Haggerty said.
While the CEC has yet to approve school choice, Fonal said parents at PS 146 were concerned the city had gone ahead with its plan to implement the program when they recently received applications with the term “middle school choice” on them. DOE officials, as well as CEC leaders, have assured parents that the choice program has not been approved.
Because of confusion over whether or not middle school choice had been approved, CEC 27 officials released a statement on Tuesday emphasizing that the council has taken no action on it.
“Instead of relying on second- or third- hand information, we suggest to all parents and educators that they come out to our meetings and get the information in person,” the council members stated in the letter.
Parents said they plan to attend the next meeting, which is at PS 114 on Monday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Fonal noted that residents who want to speak at the meeting must sign up with the council before 2 p.m. on Monday.