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Parents protest new school to be located in JHS 168

Designed to help traditionally lower-achieving students prepare themselves for higher education, the Queens School of Inquiry is one of six new mini high schools planned for the borough, including academies scheduled to open in Hollis, Laurelton, Long Island City and Auburndale. Another academy devoted to young women's leadership will open in an unspecified location.The School of Inquiry was rejected by the Auburndale community in February when parents learned it was to move into IS 25. Now parents and civic leaders from the community of JHS 168, or Parsons Junior High School, are standing their ground against the School of Inquiry as well."I don't know how we're going to keep Parsons a viable school," Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said at the rally.PTA President Virginia Montgoris said the Department of Education was going to allow JHS 168 to stay open while offering its students a choice of five other junior high schools they could go to in order to accommodate the population of the incoming Queens School of Inquiry. Parents took issue with this proposal because students would be required to take public transportation to those other schools."This wasn't brought to our attention in the planning stages or in the discussion stages," she said.She was notified about the school at a meeting no other community leaders attended. At the public meeting about the incoming Queens School of Inquiry into Parsons Jr. High in March, elected officials complained they were not even allowed to ask questions."What kind of freaking meeting is that?" state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) asked.About 81 sixth-graders, all from District 25, will start attending the Queens School of Inquiry in the fall. Additional grades up to senior year in high school will be added each subsequent year. The Department of Education did not reply to a request for information. JHS 168 currently has an enrollment of 591, according to the Department of Education Web site, down from the nearly 900 students who attended when it operated at capacity.Cass Conrad, who works with the CUNY Early College Initiative that helps develop schools such as Queens School of Inquiry, said its students will have the chance to earn as many as two years' worth of college credits.The high school will partner with Queens College to offer this opportunity. Ideally, Conrad said, the schools will serve students who hope to become the first generation of college graduates from their families.But whether or not it will accomplish those goal in the Parsons Junior High School location remains to be seen."We are here to save Parsons Junior High," said Dilip Nath, a community activist. "We are here to save our students' futures and we are here to say no to Queens School of Inquiry."Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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