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Ulrich criticizes plan to shutter Beach Channel

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City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) said the decision last week by a panel that sets education policy to shutter Beach Channel High School in Far Rockaway will create a hardship for hundreds of students on the peninsula, who he said would be forced to drop out or travel to Brooklyn or mainland Queens for high school.

“I’m very disappointed with their decision,” Ulrich said in a phone interview Tuesday, referring to the Panel for Education Policy’s decision last week to close Beach Channel and 18 other schools in the city.

The city Department of Education has so far committed only to opening one smaller new school in place of Beach Channel High as it begins to phase out the Rockaway school by not accepting incoming freshmen this fall.

Ulrich said he met with DOE officials and was assured there would be “some geographical preference” at the new school opening in September so children from Rockaway will be guaranteed a seat at the new school, but he was waiting for the assurance in writing.

Ulrich said the plan to close Beach Channel HS made no sense because a DOE review last year found the school was “emerging from academic poverty.”

“Yet a year later, the department says the school’s not good enough to stay open,” the councilman said. “I think there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”

Ulrich said special consideration should have been given to Beach Channel HS because of the difficulty Rockaway residents face in attending school elsewhere.

“In Rockaway, you have a geographical situation. They’re on a peninsula, for God’s sake,” he said.

With Far Rockaway HS — the only other high school on the peninsula after the closing of Stella Maris — at capacity, incoming freshman in Rockaway would either have to attend John Adams High School in Ozone Park or find a school in Brooklyn, Ulrich said.

The DOE said the small school being created will serve 150 incoming freshman at a time. Ulrich noted that between 200 and 250 students comprise a freshman class at Beach Channel HS.

“Where the hell is everybody else going to go to high school?” Ulrich asked.

The councilman said students have three options: drop out, attend school in Brooklyn or find a school in mainland Queens.

The DOE cited graduation rates consistently below 50 percent, reduced enrollment, low grades on the school progress report and “widespread dissatisfa­ction” when it proposed closing Beach Channel HS in December. The PEP finalized the decision last week.

Ulrich said by the DOE making the decision, the agency suggested parents, students, teachers and administrators at Beach Channel HS failed.

“They haven’t failed,” the councilman said. “I think the department has failed to give these kids the education they deserve.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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