Opposition Mounts Against Marine Park High School

Source: schools.nyc.gov

by Michèle De Meglio

Nearly 200 parents packed last night’s District 22 Community Education Council meeting to rally against the city’s plan to open a small high school in Marine Park J.H.S. (I.S. 278).

“Due to the outpouring of community opposition, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a high school co-located in Marine Park Junior High School,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC.

The opposition surprised some, since the Department of Education was actually trying to make good on a 2009 promise to provide high school grades to Marine Park.

The DOE made that offer as Marine Park parents were calling on the city to nix a plan to open a Hebrew-themed charter school in I.S. 278’s building, and instead allow Marine Park J.H.S. to expand up to grade 12.  The DOE said the school simply didn’t have the space for a full grade expansion but offered to open a small high school, which would have its own principal, staff and admissions process, in the building.  That olive branch was rejected by parents who said they didn’t want a separate school.

That appears to also be the reason for this latest round of resistance.

“This was one of the rare times where the DOE was trying to follow-up on a commitment that it made. I don’t think the DOE gauged the negative reaction that was going to come out of it – that the community doesn’t want a separate school,” Spinelli said.

“We never wanted a separate high school in the building because when you have problems between the middle and high school students, you’d have to go through two administrations to get something resolved,” said Louise Quinlan, recording secretary for I.S. 278’s PTA. “We wanted one principal, one administration, one view of how the school should be run.”

Instead of a high school, Marine Park J.H.S. wants to open a NEST program for autistic children.  The program is already operating in District 22 elementary schools, including P.S. 222 on Quentin Road and East 33rd Street and P.S. 255 on East 17th Street and Avenue S, but is not available in local middle schools.

“This is a program that’s more in need in our community than a high school,” Quinlan said. “If we see that the DOE is going to push for the high school against the community’s wishes, then we’re going to push back for NEST.”

I.S. 278’s principal and the Department of Education did not return calls for comment for this story.