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Senate OKs Padavan bill on year-round high schools

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New York state took tentative steps toward creating a 12-month school year last week when the state Legislature voted to establish a pilot program for year-round high schools, but the movement will not alleviate Queens’ crowded classrooms anytime soon.

Under the experimental program approved by the state Assembly and the state Senate earlier this month, lead in the Senate by Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), only new high schools in the city will be based on a year-round schedule.

All new high schools to be built will adhere to a 12-month schedule, according to Queens Board of Education representative Terri Thomson. The high school being built on the Glen Oaks School Campus in eastern Queens is expected to be one of the first in the borough, a spokesman for Padavan said last week.

That means that already existing Queens high schools, the most overcrowded in the five boroughs, will not be permitted to alleviate their cramped classrooms by extended school into July and August.

The legislation, which requires only Gov. George Pataki’s signature to become law, creates a pilot program allowing new city high schools to offer regular instructional school days in July and August, whereas the regular school year ends in June. The pilot program will expire June 2006.

Padavan said “we have to begin looking at alternatives to dealing with many of the problems facing our schools, including overcrowding. Some of our schools are at the breaking point. The time to try year-round schools is here.”

Parents would not have to worry about children losing vacations by attending school 12 months straight. According to the National Association of Year-Round Education based in California, typically year-round school schedules reshuffle summer vacation into smaller blocks of time off throughout the year, creating a more balanced school calendar.

Terri Thomson, the Queens representative to the city Board of Education, chaired the 2000 Year-Round Education Task Force.

Thomson said there were two reasons for limiting the pilot program to newly constructed schools.

“New schools have air conditioning,” Thomson said. “And if a parent or teacher or student decides that it’s not for them, these are built as schools of choice.”

This would mean, Thomson said, that students, parents and staff can opt to go to schools with traditional schedules as opposed to the new, year-round schools.

“Typically, what parents said to me is that ‘hands down, I’ll take the new school to give my child a quality education,’” she said.

Thomson said every high school to be built in the city will be on a year-round schedule, giving the schools a 30 percent increase in their capacity “without making the school overcrowded.” The schools also will be capped, Thomson said, to limit the school population and prevent overcrowding.

Thomson testified in March before the City Council’s Education Committee that Queens high schools are short 13,000 seats. Many, including John Adams High School in Ozone Park, are on split session, forcing some students to forego seven periods of instruction for six and eviscerating extracurricular activities.

According to statistics from the National Association of Year-Round Education 44 states had school districts or schools with year-round education in the 2001-2002 school year. Typically, school capacity, or the number of students a school can serve, increases by 33 percent with multi-track year-round education, the association said.

The 1,182-seat high school on the Glen Oaks School Campus—the High School of Teaching Professions—will be open to all Queens high school students and is expected to be ready for the 2003-2004 school year.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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