2010-02-05 / Front Page

New High School Will Address ‘Sustainability’

By Howard Schwach

The vote by the city’s Panel for Education Policy to phase out and close 19 schools, including Beach Channel High School has touched off a flurry of activity, both by the Department of Education and opponents of closing the local comprehensive high school.


On Monday, the DOE announced that the new school that will replace BCHS will be called “The Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustain ability.”

According to a DOE statement, the “outside the box” curriculum for the new school will center on environmental and social sustainability. Students at the new school will study such subjects as organic foods and nutrition, green building and development, as well as renewable energy and culinary arts.

A DOE spokesperson said that a second new school will be added to the building in September of 2011, bringing the total number of schools in the building to three, each with its own administrative and teaching staff.

“We want to draw people to these schools, a spokesperson for the DOE said. “All of the schools will offer a strong college preparatory curriculum.”

Ninth grade students who would traditionally enter Beach Channel High School in September, but have no interest in the new curriculum will have to choose a school off the peninsula, officials say.

It is unclear whether or not the new high school will admit special needs or English Language Learners, although DOE officials have told The Wave that there would be no entrance barrier for any student who lives on the peninsula and wants to attend the school.

Opponents of the plan to close the local high school say, however, that they have just begun to fight.

“Everything the Department of Education did was unjust,” says BCHS senior Chris Petrillo, who has become one of the citywide leaders in the fight to keep the 19 schools open. “The [PEP] meeting was horrible. Every body stood up and said keep the schools, and then they looked at us and did what the mayor told them to do.”

Apparently, some adults agree with Petrillo.

On Monday, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) joined in a lawsuit enjoining the DOE from closing any of the schools.

The lawsuit accuses the DOE of violating the new state mayoral control law by failing to account for the impact of the shutdown on the community.

Locals, including Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who sits in the Assembly Education Committee, charged last week that the DOE did not play by the new rules that require input from the community.

School Chancellor Joel Klein defended the school closings on a number of talk shows last weekend and slammed the UFT for trying to stop the “failing schools” from being closed.

“There are a lot of people stirring this up,” Klein said on Channel 7. “A lot of people who spoke at the [PEP] meeting were union leaders and chapter chairpersons.”

Petrillo, however, said that is not true.

“All sorts of people came to the meeting and stayed till the bitter end at 3 a.m.,” he said. “There were teachers and UFT leaders, but there were also parents and students, alumni and community politicians.”

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