City votes to shutter PS 30

By Ivan Pereira

The last of the four southeast Queens schools that were pegged for phase-out by the city had its fate officially sealed last week and parents are divided as to whether it was the right decision for their children.

The city Panel for Educational Policy voted 9-4 last Thursday to close PS 30, at 126-10 Bedell St., to new students this fall and open PS 354 in the same building. The vote was the first to be made under new city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s tenure.

Walcott, a Queens native who attended public schools in the borough, has been a strong supporter of the mayor’s policies for failing schools and indicated the city Department of Education would not change course despite protests from parents and community leaders.

“Right now we are focused on providing strong support to the students who will remain at PS 30 over the next few years, and getting the new PS 354 up and running so we can start offering this community the high-quality elementary school that it deserves,” DOE spokesman Jack Zaren-Rosenfeld said in a statement.

Unlike his predecessor Cathie Black, Walcott did not receive too many boos or interruptions from the parents during the meeting.

The four dissenting votes came from the panel members who were appointed by the borough presidents from Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, according to the DOE. The Staten Island borough president appointee and the remaining members, all of who were appointed by the mayor, voted in favor for the closure.

PS 30’s vote was supposed to take place in February, along with the votes on Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools and IS 231 in Springfield Gardens, but the winter blizzards postponed the mandatory meetings the city was supposed to have with parents about the specifics of the closing.

Jamaica and Beach Channel were approved for closure by the panel for phase-out in February and IS 231 was approved in March.

DOE officials have said that the four schools have constantly had low, four-year graduation rates and poor school report cards, but supporters have said the city never gave the institutions enough time or resources to have a turnaround.

“I don’t think they should close it down. It serves the community well,” said parent Joan Tenia, whose 6-year-old son is getting good grades at PS 30.

But Leatawn Paterson’s 8-year-old son Antonie had a different experience at the school. The 27-year-old mother transferred the boy out of the institution when he was not doing well.

Paterson blamed the teachers for the school’s failures and hopes the new school will take a different approach to academics.

“Since I took my son out, he’s doing better,” she said. “The teachers are not really doing their job there.”

Jamaica and Beach Channel were targeted for phase-out last year, but that was averted by court action. Last year, the United Federation of Teachers sued the DOE over the closings and a judge ruled in its favor, claiming the city did not properly inform parents about the closings.

The UFT has said it would consider another lawsuit, but no court plans have been announced as of press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

More from Around New York