by Michèle De Meglio
City Councilman Lew Fidler has joined parents in criticizing the Department of Education for considering opening a 300-seat high school in I.S. 278’s building, slamming it as bad policy.
Members of the school’s PTA believe that having two separate principals and teaching staffs would create a level of chaos, thereby making it difficult to resolve problems. They also fear that the older high school students would bully the middle grade kids.
“This is a new Department of Education phenomenon, putting older high school kids in with younger children. New and bad,” Fidler said.
The councilman thinks School District 22, which spans Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay, would not benefit from high school seats in Marine Park. The district is already home to large high schools, including Madison and Midwood.
Talk of a high school “is particularly ironic since the Department of Education has recently identified a need for additional seats in District 22 for intermediate school children,” Fidler said. “Why would they then use seats in an intermediate school for high school kids? It seems like seriously bad planning.”
Members of Marine Park J.H.S.’s PTA have vowed to oppose any Department of Education plan for a small high school in I.S. 278’s building.
Instead, parents are pushing for a NEST program for autistic students in middle grades. District 22 has similar programs at elementary schools but none at junior high schools.
Even if the Department of Education abandoned plans for a small high school and agreed to create a NEST program, it would be a long road before Marine Park J.H.S. could open it, according to Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s Community Education Council.
“I’ve been told that it’s a very difficult program and there must be retraining of teachers,” he said. “It’s not something that you just snap your fingers and you have it. There’s a lot of work. But it would be great for the community.”