Jamaica High begins phase-out

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Jamaica High School teachers have been forced to share their classrooms in few spaces inside the building. Photo courtesy of James Eterno

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By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, September 15, 2011

After nearly 120 years of teaching students throughout the borough, Jamaica High School has been forced by the city to use a fraction of its historical building to make way for the new institutions that are set to take its place in three years.

Last Thursday marked the first day the sophomores, juniors and seniors of the high school began their new school year along with the students from other schools that occupy the building at 167-01 Gothic Drive, and they were met with less space and resources, according to teachers.

In the winter, the city Panel for Educational Policy approved the city Department of Education’s plan to stop admitting students to Jamaica High, which was already sharing space with two other schools, The Hillside Arts & Letters Academy and the High School for Community Leadership and Queens Collegiate High School, and to place a third school, Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences, in the building as a result of Jamaica’s low graduation rate and failing report card.

James Eterno, a Jamaica High School social studies teacher and the school’s United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, said he and his staff were shocked when they were told that his students would have less access to the four-floor building to make room for the new institutions.

“We’ve been squeezed into one small part of the building on the first floor and a part of the second floor,” he explained. “We have a couple of rooms on the fourth floor for student activities and that’s about it.”

The lack of room has already brought several complications for the staff and students since the teachers have to share classrooms instead of having their own space. Eterno said one of his first classes had to use Jamaica’s library for their lesson.

“The library is a nice place to visit, but since Jamaica no longer has a librarian, they are using it for classrooms and, of course, it is not conducive for day-to-day classes,” he said.

The history teacher added that the morale among students has been low not only because they have to share their environment with three other school groups, but also because they are unsure how they will be viewed when they graduate from a school that will no longer exist in three years.

“It wasn’t that usual first day of school excitement,” he said.

The situation is so bad that even Jamaica High School’s website was not running as of press time Tuesday and had a message indicating it was under construction. Along with Jamaica High School, Beach Channel High School, MS 231 in Springfield Gardens and PS 30 in Jamaica were given phase-out orders despite active protests from elected officials and parents.

The UFT tried to block the action with a lawsuit against the city, but a state judge ruled in favor of the DOE.

A spokesman for the DOE said the city was working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible for all students and teachers.

“Around the city more than 40 percent of our schools are co-located schools that have great ideas to share with each other and by working together will create great environments for students,” DOE spokesman Frank Thomas said in a statement.

In the meantime, Eterno said he and the rest of Jamaica High School’s community would be going through the entire year with a huge chip on their shoulders.

“We’re in such uncharted water and nothing can shake that,” he said.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 7:17 pm and is filed under Breaking News, Education, Print Articles, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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