Jamaica High applicants’ future uncertain

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As the school year winds down, hundreds of potential students applying to Jamaica High School are still in limbo.

The city Department of Education allowed 8,300 middle school adolescents to reapply to the 14 high schools originally slated for closure by the city .

Students who were placed in the schools, such as Jamaica High, were given a letter stating the school could be closed down if the DOE wins a legal appeal against the United Federation of Teachers, which successfully sued the city over its plan to shut down failing schools and replace the institutions with smaller campuses.

Students were given a back-up school in their placement in the event that the targeted high schools close.

“If the DOE wins the appeal, then [they] will go to the other school,” DOE spokesman Danny Kanner said. “If the DOE loses, you will have a choice between the two schools.”

The DOE could not give specific numbers on how many students put Jamaica HS on their application due to the ongoing litigation, Kanner said.

School and community leaders said they were alarmed the DOE was continuing to implement the two smaller high schools that they had planned to open in the Jamaica High School building before a Manhattan Supreme Court judge declared the closure of Jamaica High and a number of other high schools in the city illegal. The city Department of Education would not say whether or not it is bringing in new schools to Jamaica High.

“Until the results from the supplementary round of the high school admissions process are finalized, there is nothing new to report regarding new schools,” a DOE spokesman said. “We are continuing to plan for the siting of new schools.”

“One of the things parents are concerned about is overcrowdi­ng,” said Jamaica High School PTA President Debora Williams. “Two schools are coming in, there are the students already there and there are the incoming ninth graders.”

Community Board 8 members also have said the DOE is putting in the smaller schools and have railed against the move. Kevin Forrestal, a CB 8 member who lives near Jamaica High School, said the department must provide an educational impact statement and a public hearing for any school they plan to move into Jamaica High School, which he said they have not done.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said the DOE was not being fair because there were a large number of students that chose Jamaica high School.

“They are supposed to be accommodating to the kids,” he said.

In January, the city Panel for Educational Policy voted to shut down 19 city schools that had low graduation rates and replace them with smaller schools. There were 14 high schools in that group, including Jamaica High, Beach Channel High and the Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship Magnet High, one of the Campus Magnet schools.

The UFT immediately filed a lawsuit against the DOE challenging its decision to shutter the schools and in March, just before the high school matching process was underway, a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge ruled in favor of the union and declared the closures illegal.

Kanner could not comment on the state of the DOE’s appeal of the judge’s decision due to the ongoing litigation.

Parents are worried that if the city wins its case against the UFT, students who live within walking distance of Jamaica High School would not be able to attend their neighborhood school.

“It’s a large concern for the people of the community,” she said. “What are they going to do with the children in the community who grew up here and can walk to school who won’t be able to go to that school anymore? Now a child who lives across the street from the high school will have to take a bus or a train 45 or 50 minutes away from home? That’s a concern.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:46 pm, October 10, 2011
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