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"They're thinking about closing my school and I don't think it's right," said eighth-grader Steven Gerson, 13.Protesters said the landmark seventh- through eighth-grade school will collapse under the city's plan to introduce a new academy on the property and expand several area schools.The Queens School of Inquiry, which will prepare low-performing students in grades six through 12 for college, will open in Parsons in the fall. Displaced Parsons students can go to PS 219 in Flushing or PS 169 in Bayside - elementary schools that will begin accommodating seventh- and eighth-graders - or two other Flushing junior high schools: IS 25 and IS 237.Parents oppose the plan to bus some children to the other schools and fear the new options will siphon off too many children from Parsons, forcing the city to close the school."There will be 22 students who will be eligible for this particular school and that's not going to work," said Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association. The school has nearly 600 students."This affects our quality of life," Cohen said. "It's going to affect, directly, homeowners because you will definitely lose what attracts people to this community."That attraction, he said, is a school that neighborhood children can walk to. Parsons, also known as JHS 168, has been in the community for more than 50 years, he said, boasting at least three famous alumni: the pop stars Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and actress Fran Drescher.The city Education Department has been callously disregarding that history since deciding to introduce the Queens School of Inquiry in February, said Virginia Montgoris, Parsons PTA president. More than 30 protesters decried the plan during a rally April 10 outside the school.At both events, Montgoris charged that education officials have been sketchy about the plans for the new school and have failed to give details about the expanded middle schools. She has asked for the average class size and description of gym classes."I don't seem to get any straight answers. They seem to just tell us they're taking care of it," Montgoris said. "That's the whole problem with this entire thing: the lack of communication."City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said local leaders would protest until the city cooks up another plan that guarantees the future of Parsons."We must preserve our local community school and I am confident that there is a way to do that," Gennaro said. "They're really getting the point now that we're not going away."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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