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PS 122 parents, staff save gifted program from cuts

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

A cherished gifted and talented program at PS 122 in Astoria that the city Department of Education had slated for a massive scaling back will remain unchanged after all, several area legislators said this week.

“It’s a huge victory for Astoria,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria).

He said parents and teachers fought hard to keep the program intact and pointed out that some people who did not even have children in the program showed up to voice their opposition to the restructuring plan.

“That was the most amazing thing,” he said.

Other legislators also applauded the announcement.

“I am thrilled that the exemplary academic program at PS 122 will be preserved moving forward,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) in a statement. “PS 122 is a gem in our community that should be allowed to continue improving the lives of the children and parents of Astoria for years to come.”

State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) also joined Gianaris in releasing statements lauding the decision.

Several months ago the DOE announced it was planning on reducing the number of classes at The Academy, a gifted and talented program for middle school students at PS 122, from 11 to three. It also said it was planning on restructuring the school so general education classes would go through the eighth-grade rather than ending after the fifth-grade.

The plan incited outrage from parents, teachers, the community and legislators and prompted several rallies and community meetings in opposition to the restructuring. City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott also held several meetings with the community to discuss the plan.

Vallone commended Walcott for listening to the community. He also said getting the Department of Education to shift on the issue was a victory.

“It is very rare that you get the DOE to change course,” he said.

But he said the DOE has left open the possibility of restructuring the program sometime in the future.

“They’re not guaranteeing this won’t come back one day,” he said.

The Academy students consistently rank among the top in the city and the program has served as a model for other gifted and talented schools.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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