By Patrick Donachie
Elementary school students in the Gifted & Talented programs at several schools in Astoria will continue to receive automatic enrollment into middle school G&T programs in the coming school year, the city Department of Education said. Parents and students have been up in arms over potential changes involving which students can enter the programs.
The news follows a letter sent by elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) to District 30 Superintendent Philip Composto, the head of the school district where the schools are located.
The letter to Composto asked him to clarify a letter he had sent to parents of G&T students, informing them that in the upcoming school year, “current middle school articulation processes” would be followed. The politicians were seeking more information on what that actually meant.
“When you refer to “current” standards, we assume that this is referring to the processes that have governed District 30 G&T programs for years. In order to ensure that parents making admissions decisions in the upcoming weeks have accurate information available, please specify the current articulation patterns for each grade level in each program,” the letter read.
The G&T middle school classes are housed in PS 122, a K-8 school located at 21-21 Ditmas Blvd. The school includes elementary classes for general and special education classes, but its G&T program runs through eighth grade. According to a 2013 DOE memorandum, any student enrolled in PS 122’s elementary G&T program automatically enrolls in the middle-school program. Automatic enrollment in PS 122 takes up one of six available G&T classes, Community Education Council 30 Co-President Deborah Alexander said.
The first possibility of a potential change in G&T enrollment policy came in a letter from Composto to parents Dec. 8, saying the DOE had “made the determination that all of our students deserve equal access to middle school G&T seats.” Parents and politicians responded immediately, calling for clarification from the DOE. Many parents said they had made commitments on where they would live and raise their family based on the assumption that automatic enrollment in District 30 G&T schools would be continued.
The DOE clarified that in the upcoming school year, District 30 elementary G&T students would be guaranteed admission to middle school G&T programs in the district.
“We thank the District 30 community members who have joined this conversation, and we expect to have a longer-term decision in place for the beginning of the 2018 Kindergarten application cycle,” a DOE spokesman said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona