By Howard Koplowitz
Citing low graduation rates and “widespread dissatisfaction,” the city Department of Education is proposing to close Beach Channel High School in Far Rockaway.
“We know that closing a school is a consequential decision and a difficult decision for the school community,” said DOE spokesman Will Havemann. “This is not intended as punishment for teachers and administrators. We cannot continue to ask students to attend the school when they have less than a 50 percent chance of graduating.”
Two years ago, Beach Channel had a graduation rate of 46 percent and one year ago it was 46.9 percent, according to the DOE.
“The graduation rate for the school has been consistently below 50 percent and it has a hard time keeping students on track to graduate in four years,” a DOE official said.
Jamaica High School is also being pegged for closure by the agency.
The DOE said a combination of many different factors contributed to its decision, but the bottom line was the school is not meeting the needs of its students.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach) said he believed the agency is moving too swiftly to close Beach Channel. Ulrich said he is circulating a petition among his Queens colleagues in the Council to be given to city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein about the school closing.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Ulrich said. “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.”
Ulrich said the DOE is not allowing enough time to measure the school.
“The thing is progress takes time,” he said. “Kids need stability. They need uniformity. We have got to work with teachers, parents, administrators. It can’t be the top-down style of governance.”
The agency is planning to replace Beach Channel with smaller schools and phase out classes by no longer accepting ninth-graders in the fall. The number of new schools that will operate within Beach Channel has not been determined, the DOE said.
There will be a 45-day public comment period when the public can weigh in on the DOE’s plan. That will be followed by a public hearing at Beach Channel High School at 6 p.m. Jan. 6 in the school’s auditorium.
The process then moves to a vote by the Panel on Education Policy on the matter.
The number of students who want to go to the school has been declining, according to agency figures.
In the 2008-09 school year, there were 1,522 students enrolled at Beach Channel High School. This year that number fell to 1,345.
In 2006-07, the school received a C on its progress report. That was followed by another C the following year and a D for 2008-09, including an F in progress and environment and a D in performance.
The agency also said there was “widespread dissatisfaction” expressed by parents, teachers and students on the 2009 Learning Environment Survey, which helps the DOE measure schools.
Only 59 percent of students believed their teachers inspired them to learn, while just 56 percent said they felt safe at Beach Channel.
According to the survey, 56 percent of teachers believed order and discipline were maintained at the school and 68 percent of parents believed their child was safe at Beach Channel.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.