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Queens Chronicle

Diversity plan: first steps start Dec. 5

Parents can question firm hired to put together proposal for mayor

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:40 pm, Thu Dec 5, 2019.

Parents in Queens’ sprawling District 28 will get their first look next week at how the city plans to alter admissions procedures and other policies to bring greater diversity to the schools.

The district — which encompasses Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and Jamaica — is part of a pilot project to test methods for integrating a city school system that is notoriously segregated along racial lines.

The project is still in its early stages, but the news that students may be directed to schools outside their own neighborhoods has been unsettling parents since last summer, when the plan was announced.

“A lot of people are very hysterical,” said Vijah Ramjattan, chairman of the Community Education Council for District 28, the district’s advisory board of parents and elected officials.

“They think the decisions have already been made.”

Concerned parents have been turning up at the CEC’s meetings ever since it was announced last June that District 28 would be among the first in the city to devise a diversity plan for itself.

“It’s very intense,” said Ramjattan. “Parents are taking video of us.”

The “general consensus” among parents, he said, has been “why haven’t we been notified and made part of the process?”

WXY, an urban planning and architecture firm based in Downtown Manhattan, has been hired by the city to organize public hearings, gather public opinion and a write a blueprint for the DOE.

The WXY organizer assigned to District 28, Akina Younge, will — for the first time — talk to parents at the Dec. 5 meeting and take questions on how the plan will be drawn up.

Last July, the city gave District 28 and districts in four other boroughs each a $200,000 grant to draw up desegregation plans by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

District 28 has about 40,000 students attending 27 elementary, eight middle and 15 high schools.

Last year, the Brooklyn school district that encompasses Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook eliminated admissions standards for all its middle schools in order to integrate them.

Last week, a few months after the plan was implemented, the DOE declared the experiment a success, making each school more like a mirror image of the district as a whole.

But critics point to a 6 percent drop in enrollment among sixth-graders — the first drop in five years — as an indicator that some parents are putting their kids in private schools or wangling their way into nearby districts after spots in the most-desirable schools disappeared.

“Unfortunately, they are using the public schools as part of a broader social experiment,” said the father of a District 28 elementary school student who asked that his name be withheld.

“Just putting kids from high-performing schools into low-performing schools is not going to solve any problems.”

The end result will be to drive middle-class parents out of the public school system and even out of the city, he predicted.

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