Newtown High School doesn’t need a separate school that focuses on teaching English as a second language, because the facility already offers such classes, according to parents, teachers and East Elmhurst residents at a meeting on Feb. 27.
Department of Education representatives presented a proposal to add an international school to Newtown, which serves a diverse population of students. Sixty percent of the 2,251 students are Hispanic and 25 percent are Asian.
A DOE report claims the new school would serve newly arrived immigrant students with English language learner classes, but attendees of the meeting weren’t swayed. According to DOE data as of Jan. 18, about 600 of Newtown’s students already participate in ELL courses.
“We already have these programs,” Community Education Council 24 member Maria Damico said. “We don’t agree. We want to stay one school.”
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall agrees with those sentiments and does not back the proposal.
The plan would eliminate about 300 to 340 seats to create the additional space needed for the new school by 2016.
It would be a gradual scaling back starting in the fall, if the proposal is approved. The two schools would put the building at about 92 to 96 percent capacity.
“The enrollment reduction is intended to provide an opportunity for students currently attending Newtown to improve by narrowing the focus to a smaller number of students, while offering a high-quality option to serve the ELL population,” according to the DOE proposal.
Last year Newtown was one of seven Queens schools on the DOE’s chopping block. Seniors celebrated what was thought to be its last graduation in June, but soon after the United Federation of Teachers took the city to court over the issue, and an arbitrator’s ruling, backed by a judge, halted the phaseout process and the school reopened as Newtown in September. This year, only one high school is eyed for closure — Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship High School — one of the four schools at the Campus Magnet Complex in Cambria Heights.
Last Thursday at a meeting about a similar collocation proposal at Flushing High School, attendees said the plan is just another attempt to close the school after the DOE’s plan was thwarted last year.
Damico said she didn’t get that feeling at the collocation meeting at Newtown High School. She said one of the main points was that the school continues to improve and that the DOE shouldn’t disrupt its upward path.
Newtown received a C grade on its overall progress report during the 2009-10 school year and dropped to a D grade the following year. However, during the 2011-12 year the school achieved a B.
The Panel for Educational Policy is planning to vote on the proposal on March 1l in Brooklyn. Dmytro Fedkowskyj, Queens’ representative on the PEP, said he would introduce a proposal that would ban collocations and phaseouts. But because a majority of PEP members are appointed by Mayor Bloomberg — a condition of mayoral control — it is unlikely that proposal will pass.