Squeezing Out Sixth- Graders

DOE Looks To Drop Class From Woodside School

Seeking to alleviate overcrowding and improve the overall experience of middle school students, the Department of Education (DOE) is planning to drop a grade from a Woodside school in September 2014, the agency announced.

Known as the Emanuel Kaplan School, P.S. 229—located at 67-25 51st Rd.—currently educates students from pre-kindergarten through the sixth grade. The DOE announced in a public notice last Friday, May 3, a proposal to end the sixth-grade class from the school at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year.

The plan will be the focus of a public hearing to be held by the DOE on Monday night, June 3, at P.S. 229.

Should the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) approve the proposal, both the fifth- and sixth-grade classes at P.S. 229 will graduate in June 2014 and be promoted to middle schools in the surrounding area. The elimination of the sixth-grade class from P.S. 229 will free up room for younger classes at the facility, which the DOE noted is presently overcrowded.

According to the DOE, the proposal would make it easier for students at P.S. 229 to transition from elementary to middle school. Currently, fifth-graders at P.S. 229 have the option of applying to attend sixthgrade at a middle school, but the DOE noted those who chose to remain at P.S. 229 for another year face challenges in applying for seventh- grade seats at intermediate schools.

“In particular, there are several choice middle schools in District 24, Queens and city-wide that rarely have open seventh-grade seats because seats become available only if sixth-graders leave the school,” according to the DOE public notice.

Moving on from the sixth-grade at one school to the seventh-grade at another institution provides “less time to adjust to a new school environment and new academic expectations,” the DOE indicated. Upon graduating from middle school to high school, those students would also be making their third school switch in as many years.

“This proposed grade truncation will help standardize the middle school application and entry grades in District 24, giving all P.S. 229 students access to the same range of middle school options as their peers throughout the district,” the notice also stated. “Additionally, having students start middle school through multiple entry grades (sixth and seventh) creates challenges for students and the school as a whole.”

“Multiple transitions in such close succession can have the effect of depersonalizing the school experience at a time when adolescents tend to need the most personal and supportive environments,” the DOE added.

In a case that amounts to addition by subtraction, between 175 and 185 additional seats would be provided for P.S. 229 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade should the proposal be approved.

Nick Comaianni, president of District 24’s Community Education Council, told the Times Newsweekly the proposal was needed in order to alleviate overcrowding at P.S. 229 and fill up space at schools where seats are available, such as Maspeth’s I.S. 73.

“P.S. 229 is a very overcrowded school. Even with dropping the sixth grade, they’re still going to be overcrowded,” he said. “[But] it’s something they need to do, because you have I.S. 73, which is underpopulated.”

Comaianni indicated that the district council has no objections to the plan, and has not received any negative feedback from the school community about it.

As noted, the June 3 public hearing will begin at 6 p.m. at P.S. 229’s auditorium. Speakers will be able to sign up 30 minutes prior to the start of the hearing; registration of speakers will close 15 minutes after he hearing has started.

In advance of the hearing, written comments can be sent to the DOE’s Division of Portfolio Planning by email to D24Proposals@schools.nyc .gov or by mail to Jillian Roland, Division of Portfolio Planning, 52 Chambers St., New York, NY 10007.

Oral comments on the proposal can be left by voicemail by calling the DOE at 1-212-374-7621.

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