2010-02-12 / Top Stories

Ulrich Seeks To Stave Off BCHS Closing

Newly-elected City Councilman Eric Ulrich has issued a strong statement decrying the impending demise of Beach Channel High School, the only comprehensive high school on the Rockaway peninsula.

Ulrich, in a prepared statement, said the decision last week by a panel that sets education policy to shutter the Rockaway Park school will create a hardship for hundreds of students on the peninsula, who he said would be forced to drop out or travel to Brooklyn or mainland Queens for high school.

“I’m very disappointed with their decision,” Ulrich said, referring to the Panel for Education Policy’s decision two weeks ago to close Beach Channel and 18 other schools in the city.

Ulrich said he met with DOE officials and was assured there would be “some geographical preference” at the new school opening in September so children from Rockaway will be guaranteed a seat at the new school, but he was waiting for the assurance in writing. “The plan to close Beach Channel HS made no sense because a DOE review last year found the school was “emerging from academic poverty,” the councilman said. “Yet a year later, the department says the school’s not good enough to stay open,” he continued. “I think there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Ulrich said special consideration should have been given to Beach Channel HS because of the difficulty Rockaway residents face in attending school elsewhere. “In Rockaway, you have a geographical situation. They’re on a peninsula, for God’s sake,” he said.

With Far Rockaway HS — the only other high school on the peninsula after the closing of Stella Maris — at capacity, incoming freshman in Rockaway would either have to attend John Adams High School in Ozone Park or find a school in Brooklyn, Ulrich said.

A DOE spokesperson said the small school being created, The Rockaway Park School of Environmental Sustainability, will serve 150 incoming freshman at a time. Ulrich noted that between 200 and 250 students comprise a freshman class at Beach Channel HS. The spokesperson added that a second school will be added in September of 2011, a school widely thought by locals to be a charter school backed by State Senator Malcolm Smith.

Even with the two schools, however, many local students will be left out in the cold, according to educational advocates, especially those with special needs or who are English Language Learners, the most at-risk students.

“Where is everybody else going to go to high school?” Ulrich asked. The councilman said students have three options: drop out, attend school in Brooklyn or find a school in mainland Queens. The DOE cited graduation rates consistently below 50 percent, reduced enrollment, low grades on the school progress report and “widespread dissatisfaction” when it proposed closing Beach Channel HS in December. The PEP finalized the decision last week. Ulrich said that by the DOE making the decision, the agency suggested parents, students, teachers and administrators at Beach Channel HS failed. “They haven’t failed,” the councilman said. “I think the department has failed to give these kids the education they deserve.”

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