2010-11-26 / School News

Far Rockaway School Slated To Lose Grade 6

by Howard Schwach

If the city’s Department of Education has its way, Public School 197, the “Ocean School,” at 825 Hicksville Road, Far Rockaway will lose one grade next year, becoming a Pre-K to grade five school.

According to the DOE’s website, the proposal is designed to “implement a ‘grade truncation,’ meaning that the school would no longer enroll sixth graders after the current 2010-2011 school year. Under this proposal, at the close of the 2010-2011 school year, all fifth and sixth graders who meet promotional standards will graduate from P.S. 197.

In September 2011, these students will enter middle schools as sixth and seventh graders, respectively. Beginning in 2011-2012, P.S. 197 will serve students only Kindergarten through fifth grade and offer a Pre-Kindergarten program. From that time forward, P.S. 197 students will move on to middle school for sixth grade.”

Under the plan, the great majority of the present fifth and sixth graders would “graduate” to Intermediate School (IS) 53, on Nameoke Street in Far Rockaway, in September of 2011.

The DOE, however, lists a number of Preference Options such as the Knowledge and Power Preparatory School (KAPPA VI) at Far Rockaway High School; The Village Academy, a small middle school housed at IS 52; the Academy of Medical Technology, a grades 6 to 12 school at Far Rockaway High School and P.S. 42 in Arverne.

The DOE also notes that the school’s graduates can apply to such option schools as the Channel View School for Research, located at Beach Channel High School and the Scholars’ Academy, formerly MS 180, at Beach 104 Street.

The move opens up 67 additional seats for the elementary school program, a DOE source says, adding that those seats can be used for new elementary school students, or for specialized programs such as art and music.

The agency points out that there are currently 4,552 middle school seats on the Rockaway peninsula, but only 3,635 middle school students are enrolled in those schools.

A DOE spokesperson told The Wave that it “strives to ensure that all students in New York City have access to a high-quality school at every stage of their education. Having elementary schools that terminate in different grades (i.e., K-5 versus K-6) creates unequal levels of access for students based simply on the year they exit elementary school. This proposed grade truncation will help standardize middle school application and entry grades in District 27, giving P.S. 197 students access to the same range of middle school options as their peers throughout District 27, and in particular their peers on the Rockaway Peninsula.”

The DOE says that some teachers may be excessed under the proposal, and that it will follow the rules prescribed by the UFT contract to place those teachers in other schools.

A hearing was held at the school on November 22, with many parents opposed to the plan, primarily because they do not want their children to go to MS 53 and the other schools are farther away and would require public transportation.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the plan at its next meeting, which will be held at Brooklyn Technical High School, 29 Fort Green Place in Brooklyn, at 6 p.m. on December 14.

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