Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In a Part of Queens With Crowded Schools, Opposition to a New One

In a Queens school district that is one of New York City’s most overcrowded, a plan to replace an old restaurant supply store with a gleaming $70 million high school for 1,100 students might seem irresistible.

Not so fast.

The proposal has instead become a flashpoint of contention over how public school enrollment should be determined, and if a compromise is not reached before a critical City Council vote that is expected later this month, it may be scuttled.

Residents of one neighborhood in the district, Maspeth, a blue-collar area with a small-town feel in western Queens, have long lamented the lack of a high school there, and they want to give local children a leg up in getting into the new school. But that aspiration runs counter to a central tenet of the Bloomberg administration’s education philosophy: that giving certain students an advantage threatens to further splinter the sprawling system by class, leaving families lacking savvy and resources to attend some of the worst schools.
“We always try to respond to residents, but not to go counter to our beliefs,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, who oversees education and community development. “We don’t want students blocked out, which can lead to a have and have-not type of society. We want to build an inclusive society.”

Seven years after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools, the feud in Maspeth reveals the sometimes prickly neighborhood realities that education officials still face as they try to centralize admissions to give all 1.1 million students access to the best the system has to offer.

Already, the city has agreed to give preference in admissions to students living in three of the seven Queens districts. But it has refused requests from Maspeth community leaders, including City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, to give first choice to students now attending five specific schools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should we get out the rocker and picture books any time soon?