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Frank Sinatra immortalized in new school

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Joining the entertainer at the famous comedy club at 57 East 55th St. to announce the establishment of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts was comedian Alan King, city Schools Chancellor Harold Levy, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Queens representative to the Board of Education Terri Thomson, LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow and Nancy Sinatra Jr.

"We're so thrilled that the Sinatra school is coming," Bennett said. "I asked Frank just before he died, 'Is there anything that you haven't accomplished that you would want to in your life?' and he said 'I think I would like to pass down what I have learned and what I know.'"

The new school will open its doors at a temporary site at LaGuardia Community College in September 2001, with a permanent site proposed for construction adjacent to the Kaufman-Astoria Studios complex at 34-12 36th St., said Thomson.

Bennett said he thought of the idea to open the school to honor his friend Sinatra last year. He said the high school will offer a specialized program in the arts as well as a full academic curriculum, with the first class numbering about 250 eighth- and ninth-grade students.

Vallone said 60 percent of the school's students will come from Queens and the rest from Brooklyn and Manhattan. Once the site becomes fully operational, 1,000 students in grades nine through 12 are expected to attend, with selection based on a competitive audition and evaluation of academic records.

It will cost about $70 million to build the school, Shulman said. Vallone said the City Council earmarked $35 million for the school and the mayor's office gave the other half.

The school's art program, combined with the academic study, will be a pre-conservatory studio education in one of several art forms: instrumental music, vocal music, fine arts, drama and dance. Prior to the start of the 11th grade, students will have the option of remaining with their original studio selection or auditioning for three new two-year studios: filmmaking, technical theater and musical theater. Students will be able to complete course work and intensive arts study in three or four years through an extended format.

Levy was scheduled to host the event but was running late due to traffic. King agreed to speak in his place. He said that every year the Friar's club will donate "in the high five figures" to the school.

Thomson said the school would be a great asset to the students and families of Queens.

"This is the season of giving," she said. "And what a gift we're giving the children of Queens."

Turning to Nancy Sinatra, Thomson said, "today is your dad's birthday and what a candle we have put on his birthday cake."

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