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Loss of Jamaica HS peeves pols

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Last week’s decision to shut down Jamaica High School has angered several of the borough’s elected officials who tried to save the 107-year-old institution and now they are condemning the city Department of Education’s approach that led to the closings.

Many of the leaders said the DOE and city Panel on Educational Policy acted against the best interests of students, parents and the southeast Queens community when it voted 9-4 Jan. 27 to close 19 schools across the city.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said the DOE’s plan to place two smaller schools inside Jamaica High’s building, at 167-08 Gothic Drive, would not improve the poor academic conditions at the campus.

“I don’t understand their philosophy to wear down and redo these schools. I think they need a better philosophy,” he said.

The city decided to phase out Jamaica starting in the fall because of declining graduation rates and poor grades. In the fall, it earned a D rating on the DOE’s report card.

The panel also voted to close Beach Channel High and the Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship Magnet High, one of the four schools at Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Heights.

Two schools will be placed inside Jamaica’s building, the High School for Community Leadership and the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy, and a smaller school will be placed in Beach Channel HS, according to the DOE. The students currently enrolled at the high schools will finish what is left of their four-year curriculum, according to the DOE.

The city did not say what its plans are for the Business, Computer Applications and Entrepreneurship Magnet HS.

Comrie said Jamaica High kept failing because the city did not give it the resources it needed. After the state placed it on the “persistently dangerous schools” list in the fall of 2007, the school hired Walter Acham as its principal and within a year the campus was taken off the list.

“I’m disappointed that the Department of Education has given up on the high school,” the councilman said.

With the exception of the Staten Island representative, none of the panel members who were appointed by the borough presidents approved the move to close the schools during a nine-hour meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School Jan. 27.

Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Hollis), an alumnus of the school who used to sit on the state Assembly Education Committee, said the DOE’s decision was not entirely thought through.

“I think a lot is cosmetic and just trying to make the chancellor look good,” he said of the vote.

Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said the next step would be to work with the city to make sure the new schools are properly created and zoned for the students in the district.

“I am obligated to get the best possible schools in the building and keep it as a zoned school,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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