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Gateway to replace Jamaica

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The Gateway program, which serves minority and low-income students at Jamaica High School, will become one of the schools that will ultimately replace Jamaica High, Queens legislators announced this week.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said Monday the city Department of Education informed them Friday the city would expand the Gateway program, which has existed at Jamaica HS since 1986, into its own school next year. Gateway, along with the Hillside Arts & Letters Academy and the High School for Community Leadership, two schools that began in the high school’s building this year, will replace the educational institution that has existed as Jamaica HS since 1892.

The city announced last week it once again planned to close Jamaica HS, as well as Beach Channel HS, IS 231 Magnetech 2000 in Laurelton and PS 30 in Jamaica because the DOE said the schools had been failing for years. Each school will be “phased out,” which means the schools will lose an incoming class each year until they no longer exist.

“We are keeping something in our community that has worked very well,” Lancman said of the Gateway program.

Lancman and Gennaro said teachers, students, parents and community members all lauded the Gateway program and insisted that it remain at Jamaica HS. The Gateway School will prepare minority and low-income students for college, particularly in health and science-related careers.

“It’s already part of Jamaica HS, and we know it works,” Gennaro said. “We had our hearts set on Gateway morphing into its own school. To the Department of Education’s credit, they were willng and open to get this done.”

The decision to expand the program obtained the backing of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), who said the campus will “prepare students from our community to be doctors, lawyers or scientists.”

Marc Sternberg, deputy chancellor for the DOE’s division of portfolio planning, also praised the decision.

“Gateway is an extremely successful program,” Sternberg said. “The teachers are top-notch, parents are demanding the program and the students are succeeding. That’s exactly why, in close collaboration with the Jamaica community and local Queens leaders, we’re replacing Jamaica HS with an expanded Gateway school and other high-quality options that will serve Queens families for years to come.”

The city’s decision to close Jamaica HS, and other schools throughout the borough and city, has received harsh criticism from other borough officials and education groups.

“I do know the principal at Jamaica is trying to be innovative, but I don’t know why they aren’t giving him more resources,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said.

Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) questioned the DOE’s plans for the schools in southeast Queens.

“What they are trying to do is create an airplane while they’re in the sky,” Sanders said. “You should think the thing through before that.”

The United Federation of Teachers has also slammed the DOE for the closings, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the union may sue the DOE again over it.

“The UFT, our lawyers and the teachers in the closing schools will be closely monitoring the process this year,” Mulgrew said. “If we find any substantial violations of the statute that covers school closings, the DOE can expect to see us in court.”

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

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