2004-03-05 / Front Page

Sweeping Changes Coming For Rockaway Schools

Sweeping Changes Coming<BR />For Rockaway Schools

Sweeping Changes Coming For Rockaway Schools

The most sweeping changes to hit Rockaway's schools will begin in September of this year after an expected vote by Community School Board 27 on Monday night and an announcement by State Senator Malcolm Smith that a portion of Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway would become a new Charter School.

Every elementary school in Rockaway and Broad Channel that is not now a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school will become one beginning in September. In addition, MS 198 would become a K-8 school as well.

The plan, which includes PS 42, PS 105, PS 114, PS 183 and PS 225, calls for those schools to retain their 2003-2004 fifth grade and sixth grade classes.

Middle School 198 will no longer be a zoned school for middle school students. Instead, it will be reorganized as a pre-K through 8 choice school with an Astre gifted elementary program.

Current grade 7 and 8 students at MS 198 would have the option of remaining at the school through the terminal grade.

Middle School 180 will no longer be a zoned middle school. Beginning with the 2005-2006 school year it will house only the gifted Scholar's Academy for the entire peninsula and an eighth grade.

The ALPS Program, currently running at MS 180, will transition to become the Channel View School For Research, which will become a 6-12 program housed at Beach Channel High School.

An Advanced Regents Program will be established for grades 6, 7 and 8 in the Scholar's Academy and at the Channel View School.

For the school opening in 2004, the Scholar's Academy will run at both PS 105 and PS 114. It will be merged at MS 180 the following school year.

Those changes were voted in at the school board meeting held on Monday night at PS 225.

While there were approximately 200 people at the meeting, the great majority of them were not parents, but school and Region Five staff, who quietly initialed a "sign-in sheet" that was passed around the auditorium as the meeting progressed.

The vote by the school board progressed even though a new Chan cellor's Regulation promulgated last week took the power to make zoning decisions away from the local school boards and gave it to the Regional Super intendent, Kathleen Cashin.

School Board President Steve Green berg said, however, that it was important for the board to have a voice in such an important issue.

"We are still the elected school board until we disappear in July," Greenberg said. We represent the community and it is important that the community vote on this reorganization.

Greenberg said that he expects that a legal challenge to the new regulation would overturn the chancellor's regulation taking the power to rezone away from the elected board.

The board voted and passed the reorganization plan by a vote of 5-2, with two members absent. The only minority members of the board, David Hooks and Ernest Brown, were the two dissenting votes.

"I voted against this two weeks ago because there is no consideration of 90 percent of the students in the district," Brown said. "Nothing has changed. Nothing is going to change for the kids in my neighborhood. Why should I vote for something that we already have?"

Four people stood in support of the plan. Two of them were parents, the other two were both parents and members of school and region staff.

They all praised Cashin for "making the changes necessary for Rockaway children."

Geri McGee, the parent association president at PS 114 argued that the new Scholar's Academy would service the entire community because "23 percent of the students at each elementary school in the district are reading at a high level, and can all have access to the program."

The question of what would happen to those schools that will lose all of their top students to the Scholar's Academy was never asked or answer ed at the meeting.

In addition to the changes voted in at last Monday's meetings, The Wave has learned that Middle School 53 in Far Rockaway will house the first Char ter School in Rockaway beginning in September.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, the sponsor of the Peninsula Academy, which will house 150 Pre-K to second grade students on the first floor of the middle school, told The Wave on Monday that "We haven't got the final go-ahead from the state yet, but the city has approved the program."

The school will use the new CORE curriculum as well as focus on banking and business, according to Smith. Eventually, the school will include pre-K to grade eight students, moving a new grade into the program with each school year.

Smith said that he hopes to get the Rockaway Development and Revital ization Corporation (RDRC) and its Executive Director, Curtis Archer involved in the school as well to build a business training component for the older students.

Smith added that he will soon be looking for licensed teachers and administrators for the new school. He urges anybody who wants to work at the school to send them to the parent company, Victory Schools, at its present location, The America Academy in Jamaica.

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