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Middle College could stay put

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A celebrated specialty high school in Long Island City got one step closer to staying in its current spot across the street from LaGuardia Community College after Community Board 2 voted overwhelmingly in favor of a city School Construction Authority application to acquire the property last Thursday.

Only one member opposed the application involving Middle College High School, submitted by the SCA after the owner of the building at Van Dam Street and 47th Avenue declined to renew the school’s lease there. The high school, which focuses on helping under−performing and at−risk teens and allowing students to take college courses concurrently with high school classes, had been located at the building for 21 of its 35 years, CB 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said.

For the first time since news about the school’s lease broke, staff spoke publicly about the issue.

“I believe it is vital for us to stay in our present location,” Principal Linda Siegmund told the board. She noted that a suggested alternate site, the former St. Patrick’s School, was nearly two miles away.

“[That] would make it impossible to continue the unique relationship with LaGuardia College,” she said.

Laksmi Nor, director of school and college collaboration for LaGuardia, emphasized the importance of proximity to the college for student development.

“When they finish period two, they can run across the street and get there,” she said. “By moving to a location even 2 miles away, it destroys the fabric of the program.”

SCA representative Chris Persheff played down the rumors of relocating the school.

“We have every intention of keeping the school where it is,” he told the community board. “We are looking to purchase the building.”

Assistant Principal Kim Marsh, herself a 1991 Middle College High School graduate, said the school pointed her in the right direction.

“I realized the dream to become the first person in my family to get a college degree was possible,” she said. “And it was right across the street.”

A pair of teens were also present to speak in favor of the high school.

Alejandra Acosta, who graduated last June, said the school inspired her to seek a career in early childhood education. She was accepted to Queens College as a transfer student.

“If it wasn’t for taking a college class on communications, I would be sweaty and nervous right now, she said. “But now I can talk to you with confidence.”

Middle College senior Cassandra Castillo said classes at LaGuardia helped her learn how to adjust to adult society.

“Now I know I’m ready for college,” she said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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