By Patrick Donachie
Public high schools in the northeastern area of Queens are continually some of the most popular schools in the city, and Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows is at the top of the list. Aside from the city’s specialized high schools, it was the public high school with the highest number of applicants in the city in 2015.
“This is the strongest year we’ve ever had, I think,” Dr. David Marmor, the principal of Francis Lewis, said. “We’re a safe, well-run, organized and happy place to be.”
Forest Hills High School in Queens was the second most popular high school in terms of the number of applications, according to information supplied by the city Department of Education. Midwood High School in Brooklyn was No. 3, while Bayside High School and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, two other Bayside schools, rounded out the top five. According to the DOE data, there were 9,468 applications to Francis Lewis in December.
Marmor lauded the school’s reputation and its JROTC program, calling the program one of the primary reasons that the school was so popular among eighth graders applying to high schools. He also said that Francis Lewis’ science program (the most competitive program in the city) is headed by three educators with Ph.Ds in the sciences.
Marmor also stressed that there was no correlation between the school’s high number of applicants and its overcrowding. Francis Lewis, like several other nearby high schools, has long struggled with overcrowding in its facilities. The school is operating at about 190 percent of capacity, according to Marmor.
He said the high enrollment stemmed from Francis Lewis’ status as a zoned school, offering space to those from the community who apply. Marmor said that about 65 percent of the students were enrolled in the school because there was guaranteed space for zoned students.
“Our overcrowdedness is due to the fact that we do not turn anybody away who lives in our zone,” he said. “We’re at capacity. We are at the limit, but we’ve been at the limit for 15 years. Everyone is fully aware of our situation and have made sure that we stay out of crisis.”
Marmor expects that the high number of applicants will continue in the years to come and perhaps even rise, citing Francis Lewis’ reputation as a desirable school. He said he remains enthusiastic that so many incoming high school freshmen continue to express interest in the school each year.
“If Francis Lewis continues to do the thing that it does right, if it continues to put out science winners, robotics winners, the JROTC, I see demand continuing to increase,” he said. “Why would you not want demand to increase? I want people to be here.”