Students, Teachers Protest Closing Of BCHS
Students, teachers and union officials joined Democratic District Leader Lew Simon on the steps of Beach Channel High School last Thursday to protest the closing and restructuring of the last community zoned high school on the peninsula.
The city tried to close the high school last year until a court decision prevented it and others throughout the city from closing their doors.
Simon and everyone else in attendance echoed the sentiment that closing Beach Channel would eliminate a local school for kids on the peninsula, and would mean that most students would likely have to travel off the peninsula to attend high school.
“Our transportation options out here are in the pits,” Simon said. “Where will our kids go? The chancellor stripped the funding from this school and destroyed it. They need a community school here on the peninsula.”
Student Shadelie Murray said the teachers at Beach Channel have helped her develop skills she would not have been able to develop elsewhere in the city.
“The teachers have done a lot for us here,” she said. “There are a lot of beautiful people to get to know here. The teachers bring all of us together and make us open minded kids. They care here.”
Joseph Sanchez says he has a lot of fond memories and believes closing the school is a big mistake.
“Great programs used to exist here,” he said. “But now they have all been taken away.”
Programs such as oceanography, the small communities learning program, culinary and mechanical classes have all been stripped in recent memory from the school’s curriculum.
It’s those programs that 12th-grader Kaashief Toomer says kept kids motivated and interested in the school.
“People stopped caring about us,” she said. “We have so many programs that are not utilized anymore and [are] the kind of things that keep kids out of trouble. Some students here need that. Restore the programming here and the school will improve.”
Ola Lemoru, another student, also thinks the city simply stopped caring about the school and she is resentful about the city’s handling of the school.
“If no one cares about our school then no one inspires us to do good things,” she said. “How do you expect positive things from the school if all it’s surrounded in is constant negativity? When I came here I was a broken kid and Beach Channel fixed me, but others need to be inspired here and it’s just not happening with all this negativity. The city has abandoned us.”
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative James Vasquez says that if Beach Channel closes its doors the new schools that will take its place will no longer guarantee a seat for every student living in the Rockaways to attend school on the peninsula.
“The mayor doesn’t believe in community schools,” he said. “He’s made that very clear and now there will be no zoned school for the Rockaways if this closes down. Beach Channel is their last choice.”
Far Rockaway High School was recently closed as well and is in the process of phasing out the remaining student classes. It’s in the process of being restructured with open enrollments which, unlike zoned schools, does not grant priority based on geographic location.