As her son Augustus began kindergarten in the city’s gifted and talented program at Sunnyside’s P.S. 150, Deborah Alexander was excited at the thought he would eventually be enrolling in the prestigious middle school program known as The Academy at P.S.122 in Astoria.
Yet the excitement turned to concern as the Department of Education revealed its plan last week to cut down the number of classes at The Academy in order to expand P.S. 122’s general education population into the eighth grade.
“Tearing down a middle school program that was ranked number two in the state makes no sense,” said Alexander, who also has a two-year-old daughter zoned for P.S. 122.
Other outraged parents met with members of the DOE last Thursday night at P.S. 234 to voice their concerns. Although the parents hoped to get answers that night, they were left with more questions.
“They were treating us not even how we treat our children, it was insulting,” said Alexander who couldn’t hold back tears at the meeting. “I asked for a raise of hands of who was in support and not a single hand was raised.”
This announcement comes a month after the DOE unveiled a new gifted middle school that will open in fall 2013 at Long Island City’s I.S. 126 with seats for 60 students. Yet because of the cuts, students from P.S. 150, P.S. 166 in Long Island City and P.S. 217 in Roosevelt Island will all be competing for the 60 seats.
“They tried to say ‘look at what we gave you,’ but instead of adding the seats we asked for, they reduced them,” said Alexander.
The DOE has responded by telling parents that according to the DOE’s Chancellor’s Regulations, P.S. 122 is supposed to be a K-8 building, and rules have not been followed.
“It’s the department disrespecting the community. They went off and pissed off a community that was really, really happy,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of the District 30 Community Education Council.
According to Carmignani, this change will extend to all classes at P.S. 122 through eighth grade starting with this year’s incoming kindergarten. By 2019, there will only be room for one class per grade in The Academy, down from the three to four classes offered now.
Parents are afraid the expansion will overcrowd the school, create more lunch periods starting at 9 a.m., and cut science and math programs. They also worry the remaining classes at The Academy will go down in quality as fewer classes are offered.
“They are taking a school that is a model and destroying it in the process,” said Alexander. “This concern is for the community and the district as a whole, not just one school or population.”
Local politicians joined parents in opposition of cutting down classes at The Academy. “The problem is that they are going to be cutting the overall amount of G&T seats and that’s completely unacceptable,” said Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. “Even with additional classes in other locations the seats in total have been cut down.”
Before any drastic changes take place, the community hopes to be able to work out an agreement with the DOE to keep the gifted and talented seats either at P.S. 122 or at another school.
“We as parents would love to work with the DOE to create a program to allow our students to receive the appropriate education for their personal learning needs,” said Karen Schumacher, whose daughter Magie is a first grader in the program at P.S. 150. “Let’s add, let’s expand, let’s not destroy.”