Hearing set for Van Buren

TimesLedger File Photo
By Phil Corso

A joint public hearing later this month will allow residents to weigh in on the city’s proposal to co-locate a school at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.

The city Education Department rolled out the proposal to put another school in Martin Van Buren after it saw a 40 percent drop in applications since 2010, according to a spokesman. A public hearing was planned for Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. at the school, where residents can sound off on the plan.

Written comments were also being accepted via e-mail at d26proposals@schools.nyc.gov or by phone at 212-374-7621, the DOE said.

Elected officials and community leaders throughout northeast Queens have stood staunchly against the plan since it came to the surface over the summer, some of whom said the school was just beginning a long process of repairing its reputation under new leadership. The school hired Principal Sam Sochet after its progress reports dropped from B in 2008 to C in 2012 and has been working to implement new programs for students, including internship opportunities at nearby North Shore-LIJ Health System in Glen Oaks.

“One of the worst things that could happen to a school like Martin Van Buren is a co-location. The new leadership I helped install at the school has finally begun to turn things around,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), one of the several elected officials to oppose the plans. “Now, a co-location is threatening to divert the necessary resources that Martin Van Buren needs to continue to thrive.”

Avella, along with state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), called on the DOE to drop the proposal to allow the school more time to rebuild from within.

A DOE spokesman, however, said the co-location consideration was only created to offer parents with more options and allow students to obtain a high school diploma and an associate degree as an intern outside the classroom.

“Across the city, we’ve transformed the landscape with our new school options — and we’ve been nationally recognized by President Obama for our visionary offerings,” a DOE spokesman said in a statement. “We’re delivering an incredible new early college and career technical education school for this community, one of only a handful from around the city. This will be a special new option that will deliver great outcomes for children, and we’re confident it will be in very high demand.”

If the co-location is achieved, the city would place another school within Van Buren that would partner with Bayside’s Queensborough Community College to offer opportunities for an associates degree at no cost.

Martin Van Buren High School was awarded more than $4 million in federal school improvement grant money after being selected as one of 22 schools citywide earlier this year. The state set aside a total of $74.2 million to be doled out to the schools over the next three years, $4,341,030 of which will go directly to Van Buren to be used at the school’s discretion.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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