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City plan would make applying to school easier

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Queens parents at a hearing in Forest Hills last week supported the city’s proposal to streamline the application process for intermediate schools but were divided as to whether sixth-grade students should be removed from elementary schools.

The city Department of Education and School District 28 officials held the hearing last Thursday at JHS 190 in Forest Hills to discuss with parents a new application process expected to be implemented next year which mirrors the way students currently apply to high schools.

As part of the city’s plan, fifth-grade students in District 28 would be able to use one application form on which they would prioritize which schools they would like to attend for sixth-grade. Currently, students have to apply to each school individually instead of using one single application.

District 28 covers Forest Hills, Rego Park, Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Springfield Gardens.

“The application process needs centralization,” said Community District Education Council President Joseph Trotti. “Now they get applications from all different places and it can be difficult.”

The consensus among parents at the meeting echoed Trotti’s statement, and PS 101 PTA President Deborah Dillingham said she and other parents from her school “absolutely love this centralized application process.”

Although the hearing was not supposed to discuss another city proposal to remove sixth-grades from elementary schools and group them with intermediate schools, a number of parents brought up the idea.

Some slammed the proposal, saying students are not emotionally prepared to be in a school with older pupils. Other parents and school officials said the move would create more uniformity in the district, since some intermediate schools currently include sixth-grade and others do not.

For example, the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School slated to open in Forest Hills this fall will eventually include students from sixth- through 12th-grade.

Forest Hills residents John Ryding and Ann Kittredge criticized the idea to remove sixth-grades from elementary schools and cited a 2007 study from Duke University that found sixth-grade students attending middle schools are more likely to have discipline problems than those in elementary schools.

Mavis Burton of Jamaica said she was worried children like her daughter, a student at PS 174 who is diagnosed with ADHD, would get lost in a school with older students.

“If teachers weren’t aware of her situation, it could be a great problem,” Burton said. “I don’t think she’s ready for another setting.”

Other parents of children at JHS 190, which added three classes of sixth-grade students this year, said they were pleased their students were attending the intermediate school. PS 190 includes grades from sixth through ninth.

Rego Park resident Judy Skolnick said her twins in sixth-grade at JHS 190 were happy to make the transition from attending elementary schools at PS 174 to the junior high school and said school officials have worked hard to nurture the younger students to help them integrate into the school.

Kew Gardens resident Debra Mueller said her son, a sixth-grade student at JHS 190, has also excelled at the school.

“I’ve felt the emotional support has always been there,” Mueller said of JHS 190. “I’ve never felt there’s been a safety issue. I’ve never been worried about him being with older children.”

District 28 Assistant Superintendent Jeannette Reed said city education officials will soon canvass each elementary school that includes sixth-grade to receive input.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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