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Bayside skeptical about high school plan

By Tom Momberg

The School Construction Authority is under contract to purchase the Bayside Jewish Center, 203-05 32nd Ave.

With tension mounting, several spectators lashed out at the most recent meeting Monday with the SCA and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), upset that it seemed they had no chance to prevent the school from being built, or to push the SCA to reconsider building a small elementary school instead.

Many people believe the height of the building needed to house so many seats on a small lot would likely exceed four stories, and that the lack of parking and additional traffic on 32nd Avenue would wreak havoc.

Trying to calm the angry audience members, CB11 member Janet McEneany asked the SCA to explain how the agency came to the conclusion it needed more high school seats in Bayside, where many students are bused in from out of the district.

“I have heard from so many of you—you don’t want a school here. I got it,” SCA Director of External Affairs Michael Mirisola responded. “But we have an obligation to serve the needs of the community, as well as of a larger (city) community—not just this one.”

Sure that the project would go forward, the SCA has along with Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), proposed three options.

Among the possibilities Vallone and the SCA have discussed are a 730-seat annex for Bayside High School, which is at 154 percent of its building’s capacity with 3,350 students as of 2013, or the relocation site for the World Journalism Preparatory School, which is currently housed in an old former middle school in neighboring District 25. But the specialty school is at less than 80 percent of its enrollment capacity with its 609 students.

World Journalism Principal Cynthia Schneider welcomed the idea for a new location and urged residents to welcome the idea, too, citing the school’s success and the community’s familiarity with its program. Bayside Principal Michael Athy said PS 159 used to be the high school’s annex, and thought the first option was absurd.

“I think we are out of the annex business, thank you very much,” he said.

The third possibility is a completely new, smaller specialty high school, similar to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria or the Bronx High School of Science. Vallone said he is aware that the way in which the SCA selects school sites needs to be reformed, but at this point the proposed school in Bayside is going to go through with or without the community’s approval.

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