After a year, the students will be sent back to John Adams, hopefully with a hefty number of academic credits under their belt, to make way for a new group."I can't leave things the way they are," Cashin said during a presentation to Jamaica's Community Board 12 last week. "I need to do this now."The new program will be housed at St. Clement Pope, a former Catholic school at Rockaway Boulevard and 141st Street that closed and has since been renovated for the academy. Eighth-graders who have already been accepted at John Adams must apply for the Jump Start initiative through a lottery. Only 500 will be chosen out of a class that typically numbers more than 1,200."I know we can do this," Cashin assured the CB 12 crowd, which included many parents.In the 2003-2004 academic year, John Adams was operating at 121 percent of capacity, with more than 3,000 students. Because of the overcrowding, the school has relied on a staggered schedule for years and does not have enough room for clubs, tutoring or teacher training, Cashin said.In addition to the overcrowding, only 43 percent of the students who could have graduated after four years earned a diploma or a general equivalency degree at the end of the 2003-2004 year, while 37 percent needed to continue on and 20 percent dropped out. The biggest factor in achieving an on-time graduation, Cashin said, is earning enough credits and getting promoted on the first try from ninth grade to 10th grade. If students go more than four years, the superintendent said, they often play catch-up their whole lives.The Jump Start Academy, which is two miles from the school, will relieve the strain and serve as a transition to John Adams. Students have the option of taking a summer session between eighth and ninth grades and again before heading back to John Adams so they can build up their credits. The academy will also offer extended days, reduced class sizes and free after-school tutoring. For the ninth-graders left behind at John Adams, similar initiatives will be available.Not all at the community board were impressed, however, as John Adams is only zoned for South Ozone Park, Ozone Park and Howard Beach, with other students needing to list the school as a preference on their high school applications."We've got problems that are bigger than worrying about a cute little school that 14-year-olds are going to enjoy," one woman said.But Cashin, who came up with the idea after reading about similar programs, said it would help the students and was likely to be copied across the city."I think this could be breakthrough and precedent-setting," she said.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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