2010-06-25 / Top Stories

Few Students Slated For BCHS Freshman Class

New School ‘Aggressively Taking Over Building’
By Howard Schwach

The off-again, on-again status of a local high school has caused a new problem for its administrators and staff — nobody seems to want to go there.

First, came the bombshell announcement that Beach Channel High School and 18 other schools were slated to be phased out and shut down by the Department of Education.

Then, came a court decision in late May that provided the schools with a reprieve, when a judge ruled that the city engaged in “significant violations” of the new state law governing the mayor’s control of the public schools. At that time, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis ordered the city to start the process all over again, this time “with meaningful community involvement.”

The Department of Education immediately appealed the court’s decision and, as of this week, the appeals court had not yet ruled on the case.

It did not stop the city agency from moving to place a new school in the building despite the court’s ruling.

The uncertainty has caused many problems for Beach Channel High School, the major problem being that only 21 students have registered for the school’s freshman class, slated to begin in September.

At the same time, the Department of Education has gone ahead with its plans to site a new school in the building in September – The Rockaway Park School for Environmental Sustainability.

It is unclear, however, how many students have registered for that school because, a DOE spokesperson says, the city agency is still in the process of contacting students to find out their school choice for September.

“Only some of the students who will be part of Beach Channel’s incoming freshman class have been entered into the DOE’s computer system at this point. We do not yet know the final number of students that will be in the freshman class, but we expect that it will be higher than what is currently in the system,” said DOE spokesperson Danny Kanner. “We are actively reaching out to students we haven’t heard from to determine which school they would like to attend.”

Teacher Dave Pecoraro, the outspoken United Federation of Teachers Chapter Chairman for the building, however, thinks he knows.

I have heard that the new school has registered about 100 students,” Pecoraro told The Wave on Tuesday. “Officials for the new school have been moving aggressively to get us to vacate. They ordered us out of the math office and out of the teacher lounge.”

Pecoraro says that he and his teachers are not moving to make way for the interlopers.

“We have a court order, which I believe does not allow for the creation of a new school,” he said. This has become acrimonious and I will have her [the new school’s assistant principal] arrested if she touches the material that belongs to Beach Channel High School. I will personally sign the criminal complaint against them.”

“It might have been funny at the beginning,” he added. “There is nothing humorous in the situation created by the Department of Education. Not any longer.”

One school staffer, who asked for anonymity because he fears retribution for speaking with the press, said that the DOE created the problem by causing the uncertainty in the first place.

“Why would a student want to start his or her high school career at a school that might be closed in a year,” he asked. “There has been a whole series of ‘don’t come here’ signals by the department. They stop kids from coming and then point out that the school must be bad because nobody wants to go there.”

Last year, the incoming freshman class listed 182 students.

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