Only a little more than six months after voting to co-locate a second junior high school at JHS 226 in South Ozone Park — on top of a special education school that is already there — the city Department of Education is proposing a high school for the location as well and may approve it next week.
The building, at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd., will play host to four different schools by September 2014 if the co-location is approved.
It is one of a dozen 11th-hour co-locations planned by the Bloomberg administration for schools in Queens. Critics of the proposals allege the move is an effort by the administration to push through education policies before a new mayor takes office in January.
The plan is to open a new high school, currently unnamed, with 75 to 85 ninth-grade students beginning in the next school year. The enrollment in the school will increase to 300 to 340 students by 2017-18. At that time, enrollment in JHS 226, the already long-existing junior high school, will decrease from 1,371 students this year to 945 to 975 students in 2017-18. Enrollment in the new junior high school that was approved last March, MS 297 — Hawtree Creek Middle School — will rise from 108 students this year to 315 to 345 students in 2017-18, while enrollment in PS 223, the special education school in the same building, will hold steady at around 40 students.
The DOE said the new co-location will leave the school at 79 to 84 percent capacity in 2017-18, up from 75 percent this year. The agency describes the JHS 226 building as “underutilized.”
JHS 226 is no stranger to co-locations. Besides the new junior high school and the special education school sharing its facility, a high school was placed there 10 years ago, causing the school’s population to more than double, overcrowding the building. Though that co-location eventually ended and the school’s student population dropped back down to below capacity, it made many skittish about future co-location proposals. More than 600 parents signed a petition opposing the middle school co-location in March, though the Panel for Educational Policy — the DOE’s policy-making body — approved it anyway.
“Parents don’t want to relive that incident again,” JHS 226’s parent coordinator Claudia Bethea said in March. She also noted that during the co-location a decade ago, the hallways in the school were overcrowded and students were fighting each other.
The public hearing for the new co-location was to be held Wednesday night at JHS 226 with a vote on the proposal by the PEP scheduled for Oct. 30 in Brooklyn. At the same meeting, the PEP will vote on a number of other planned co-locations in Queens including a new school at IS 59 in Springfield Gardens and new high schools at the Long Island City and Martin Van Buren high school buildings.