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Queens Chronicle

Should IS 204 grow as a middle school?

Public hearing draws small crowd

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Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:30 am, Thu Mar 28, 2013.

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Two intertwined education proposals have some smiling and others frowning.

The Department of Education has proposed that the Academy for Careers in Television and Film be moved along with two other schools to the under-construction PS 404 at the Hunters Point South complex, the new development being built in the most southwest portion of Long Island City.

The ACTvF will be leaving middle school IS 204 on the other end of LIC in Dutch Kills. To fill that space the DOE has proposed putting in a six-year vocational high school that would align career paths within National Grid and Con Edison.

At the first public hearing last Thursday — one week before the Panel of Educational Policy will vote on the proposals, which some Community Education Council 30 members said made them feel like it’s a done deal instead of a work in progress — individuals spoke in favor of the ACTvF’s move to PS 404, but most opposed the plan to put a six-year high school at IS 204.

“We’ve had extensive time to look at the new building and it will give us the opportunity to expand the program,” ACTvF principal Edgar Rodriguez said, adding he fully supported the move.

Many teachers, the Parent Teacher Association president and other parents echoed that sentiment.

“I’m excited about the move,” parent Rachel Beadle said. “We should not be hidden in a basement anymore.”

Conversely parents and teachers of children at IS 204 said collocating 21-year-olds with 10-year-olds poses a safety issue, and instead the middle school should be allowed to grow on its own. Although the PEP vote did not take place until Wednesday, after press time, the “proposed” high school is already listed as a valid option for incoming ninth graders on the IS 204 website.

“Give us the opportunity to grow,” IS 204 Assistant Principal Clara Lambros-Purdy said.

District 30 is one of the most crowded in the city, according to the CEC. “We have students being educated in the hallway on the other side of the district,” and CEC member Michelle Noris said, who opposes a six-year high school collocating to IS 204.

Out of 400 applications to the middle school only 20 percent are accepted, according to IS 204 Principal Yvonne Leimsider.

“We are already crowded at 1,100 students even though our footprint suggests 1,500,” Leimsider said.

The DOE proposal allocates only two classrooms for the fifth- and sixth-year high school students, saying for the most part they will be taking college classes and internships elsewhere.

The CEC — a volunteer advisory panel unlike the PEP, which has the power to vote on DOE proposals — questioned if two classrooms is a realistic number and asked if the DOE could split the proposed school and put the college-age students at another location.

“The older students can be that gateway to high-risk behavior,” Noris said, adding that the older students who are taking post-high school classes have access to alcohol and possibly to drugs. “It’s too large of an age group to be safe.”

Five years ago when ACTvF was proposed for IS 204, parents in opposition filled the middle school’s auditorium for a hearing, compared to the 25 percent or 50 person occupancy last Thursday, former ACTvF Principal Mark Dunetz noted.

During the school’s stay at IS 204, Dunetz said, there have been no recorded incidents of high schoolers engaging in sexual relations with a middle schooler or providing drugs.

If a new high school does locate to IS 204, CEC 30 co-President Jeff Guyton asked that district students get priority, but he prefaced his request with “We won’t get it, but I want it noted.”

Out of 300 students applying to ACTvF overall only five IS 204 students were accepted, Student Leadership Team President Fotina Lambos said, although, Dunetz said, every student who attended one of the publicly announced open houses was accepted. He added that the school is 90-percent populated by Queens residents.

“I don’t think that would be appropriate for this school. It’s unfair to the whole city to limit it to one neighborhood,” Beadle said, about giving District 30 students preference.

Another issue raised was if the equipment used in the filming studio would be wasted. Dunetz said the converted locker room basement was designed to not be used exclusively for ACTvF and would work for any school, such as the proposed ConEd one.

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