2011-12-16 / Top Stories

Other Shoe Drops For Wavecrest’s PS 215

School Slated For Closing; PPA Gets Reprieve
By Howard Schwach

After waiting more than a month for the other shoe to drop, two Rockaway schools got the word they had been waiting for. For one school, it was the bad news that the Department of Education had made the determination that it needs to be closed down due to “persistent educational failure,” while the other school found out that it had ‘beat the hangman’s knot’ and would be allowed to continue operations.

The school slated to be closed, DOE officials announced on Friday, December 9, is Public School 215 on Briar Place in Wavecrest. The school that will continue operations is the Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter school founded by State Senator Malcolm Smith, which operates at the former Stella Maris High School in Rockaway Park.

The two schools, the DOE source said, were on the list because they meet specific criteria:theygotaDoranFon their most recent progress report, or a C for the third year in a row; they were on the state’s list of persistently lowachieving schools; or they received a C or D from the teams of state and city officials who were sent to review them.

In addition, other criteria for struggling schools are declining or stagnant enrollment or performance based on standardized tests.

PS 215 was on the list because it received a C, a D and an F in the past three reports, official DOE records say.

The DOE proposal calls for PS 215 to gradually phase out and eventually close because of its low performance and its inability to turn around quickly to better support student needs.

P.S. 215 is currently a zoned elementary school serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade and offering a pre-kindergarten program. 27Q362 would be a new DOE zoned elementary school that would continue to serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade and would offer a pre-kindergarten program (pending continued availability of funding).

If the proposal to phase out and eventually close P.S. 215 is approved, P.S. 215 would no longer admit kindergarten students and would no longer offer grades one and two or its prekindergarten program after the conclusion of this school year.

Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, after P.S. 215’s kindergarten, first grade, and second grade are phased out, P.S. 215 would serve one fewer grade in each subsequent year until it completes its phase-out and closes in June 2015. Current students in grades two, three and four would continue to be served by P.S. 215 and be supported as they progress toward completion of elementary school at P.S. 215. If this proposal is approved, current students in kindergarten and first grade would be served by the new zoned elementary school, 27Q362. A pre-kindergarten program would also be offered by 27Q362 in Q215 (pending continued availability of funding).

27Q362 would open in Q215 as a zoned district elementary school serving the same zone as P.S. 215. In the 2012- 2013 school year, 27Q362 would serve 36 students in pre-kindergarten, 100- 110 students in kindergarten, 105-115 students in first grade, and 95-105 students in second grade for a total of 336- 366 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. 27Q362 would then grow to serve 441-481 pre-kindergarten through third grade students in the 2013-2014 school year and 546-596 pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students in the 2014-2015 school year. 27Q362 is expected to reach full scale in 2015-2016 when it would serve approximately 651-711 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

If both proposals are approved, 27Q362 would be co-located with P.S. 215 as P.S. 215 phases out. Once 27Q362 has completed its expansion and P.S. 215 has completed its phaseout, 27Q362 would be the only school in Q215.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr., who represents the community, said that he is “saddened by the news,” and that he “is not giving up the fight” and plans to “continue to encourage the Department of Education to put more funding and resources towards making the school a success.”

“I take issue with the entire concept of simply closing a struggling school,” Sanders added. “It accomplishes nothing other than shuffling students around a system that is failing them. We need to find ways to improve our educational system, not simply consolidate schools that are considered failing. Struggling schools need more money, more resources, more support for teachers, students and parents, as well as more administrative dynamism.”

The Department of Education community hearing, which is a mandated part of the phase-out proposal, will be held at the school, 535 Briar Place, at 6 p.m. on January 20.

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