2009-12-11 / Front Page

Meeting Set On BCHS Closing

By Howard Schwach

Local residents will have a chance to comment on the Department of Education's plan to phase out and close down Beach Channel High School at a special meeting to be held in the school's auditorium on January 6, school officials say.

Beach Channel High School would be phased out and then closed under a new plan by the Department of Education. Beach Channel High School would be phased out and then closed under a new plan by the Department of Education. The bombshell announcement that the local high school will be closed after its last present students graduate in June of 2013 was made on Monday, causing some teachers and students to mobilize to save the school.

"We went to the school today to announce our proposal to phase out the school," said DOE spokesperson Will Havenann. "There will be no more incoming freshman classes at the school and it will phase out over the next three years.

He added that under the new school governance law passed in Albany earlier this year, the public has forty-five days to comment on the plan.

The January 6 meeting, which will be held in the auditorium at 7:30 p.m., will give parents, students and community members a chance to comment to members of the city's Panel on Educational Policy about the plan.

That body will vote on the implementation of the plan on Jan uary 26 at its monthly meeting at Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan.

In citing the reasons for closing the school, education officials said that the school's graduation rate has remained below 50 percent in past years. In the 2008 to 2009 school year, a DOE official said, the school's graduation rate was 46.9 percent, one of the lowest in the city.

In addition, the demand for seats in the school is declining.

In 2008-2009, there were 1,522 students enrolled in the school. This school year, that number fell to 1,345.

Beach Channel High School recently received a D grade on its school report card, down from C grades the last two years.

DOE officials added that both parents and students had lost confidence in the school.

In the 2009 Learning Environment Survey, only 59 percent of the students gave teachers a passing grade and only 56 percent of the students reported that they felt safe in the building.

Only 56 percent of the teachers reported that order and discipline are maintained at the school.

Less than three-quarters of the parents who responded to the survey said that they felt that their kids were safe in the building.

One student standing in front of the building on Tuesday morning, who asked only to be identified as Ramal, said that he was not surprised.

"This school is dangerous and the teachers really don't care if you learn or not," he said. "I don't know if I am going to stay here until I graduate or go someplace else, but there is really no other place to go in Rockaway. I don't like to travel all that much."

A staff member, who asked not to be identified, said that he hopes that the school's UFT chapter will fight the closing.

"This is bogus," the teacher said. "There is no reason to close the school except to make it look like the mayor is doing something that he is not doing. We have to fight this and keep the school open."

DOE officials say that all of the teachers in the school will have to reapply for jobs in the new school or find other jobs throughout the system.

A recent proposal by Mayor Michael Bloomberg would mandate that teachers in closed schools who cannot find another job within a year be fired.

At the end of the phase-out period, the school would be closed and renamed "The Beach Channel Educational Campus." Some new, smaller schools would be added to the school's organization, much like the Channel View School for Research, which now shares the building with the high school and which will not be impacted by the school's closing.

"We are likely to replace Beach Channel High School with a new school during the first year of the phase out," Deputy Chancellor John White told The Wave on Tuesday afternoon. "The new school will be designated as 27Q324, a grade 9 to 12 school that will eventually have 432 students, although it will house only the ninth grade the first year."

Asked if the school would be a specialized application school, White said, "We need to serve the youngsters who would normally go to Beach Channel High School, so the new school will not have an academic screen," meaning every student who wants to attend the school will be allowed to.

"We know the peninsula's unique problems," White added. "This school is going to be good for the security of the neighborhood and good for Rockaway's students."

White said that an expert from the Department of Education would decide on space allocation for the new school, and that both the new school and the Channel View School for Research would share the building on an equal footing.

Beach Channel High School is only one of several schools that will be phased-out and closed, a DOE spokesperson said.

A number of the schools that are being closed down are the new "innovative" small schools started by Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein under the mayoral control plan.

Officials at Beach Channel High School declined to comment on the phase out plan, deferring instead to Department of Education sources.

The staff, however, has called a public meeting to be held at the school on Tuesday, December 15 at 6 p.m.

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