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City OKs temporary move of Maspeth high school to Metro Campus

Students of the new Maspeth High School will join those at Queens Metropolitan HS for at least a year after the DOE opted to house the school temporarily at the Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills while construction continues on the school's permanent home. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

A Maspeth high school found a temporary home at the Metropolitan Campus in Forest Hills, but it certainly was not an invited guest.

An education panel voted Tuesday night to temporarily house one grade of a Maspeth high school, whose building will not be completed until September 2012, inside the building of Queens Metropolitan High School at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave.

The city Panel for Educational Policy voted unanimously with one recusal at Brooklyn Technical High School for the controversial proposal that drew heated criticism from city officials and parents of students at the three schools that currently occupy the building: PS 233, a special-needs school; Queens Metropolitan HS; and Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School.

The main source of contention was a clause in the proposal that would allow the Maspeth school to stay in the Metropolitan Campus for more than a year. The city Department of Education said that if a longer stay were proposed, it would conduct a new Educational Impact Study to assess the consequences.

But parents and legislators wanted the proposal to ensure that the relocation would only last for one year, and along with state Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) sent a letter to city Schools Chancellor Cathleen Black detailing their demand.

When the politicians did not receive an answer, they sent a second letter to Black asking to delay the vote.

But at around 10 p.m., the measure had passed with no change in the proposal.

The DOE has said that the Metropolitan Campus will be underused next year because two of the schools are phasing in grades one year at a time. Without the Maspeth relocation, the building will be operating at 61 percent of its target capacity. With the temporary housing of the ninth-graders, the school will run at 72 percent capacity, which the DOE said indicates that the building can easily accommodate the Maspeth students.

The temporary relocation would help alleviate overcrowding in Maspeth and help get the high school — dubbed “Maspeth High School @ Metropolitan Avenue Campus” at a Feb. 16 meeting — started a year early.

“We want to get this new high school up and running as quickly as possible for Queens families, so it makes sense to give it a temporary home for a year while we build its permanent site,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, spokesman for the DOE.

But parents had a different outlook.

At a Feb. 9 meeting, they unleashed a barrage of criticism at the proposal, but even then felt that the DOE did not seriously consider their reservations.

“A lot of parents felt like it was a done deal,” said a frustrated Kathryn Thome, parent of a student at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School.

“It was better when the DOE just did what they wanted to do. This is a farce, a guise of transparency.”

Now that the measure has passed, it is up to the principals at the three Forest Hills schools to plan how to accommodate the roughly 250 Maspeth students.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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