Expect to hear more on this.
One of the most vexing aspects of this administration’s frenzy to close schools is its absolute willingness to accept and propagate explanations like this one. While the much-ballyhooed statistics are outrageous and inaccurate, it appears true that no one’s actually planning to bulldoze Jamaica High School, as far as I know. Of course, that’s only as far as I know.
Still, even if the building will remain, does that mean residents will still get what they’ve always gotten? Right now, if you live in Jamaica, you have the option of attending Jamaica High School. That would certainly change once Chancellor Klein places new schools in the building and stops admitting new kids to Jamaica High School.
This probably doesn’t much worry politicians. For one thing, highly publicized school closings tend to take the spotlight away from the spectacular failures of administration. Queens high schools are short 33,000 seats, and Jamaica’s neighbor, Francis Lewis High School, is already massively overcrowded. While the state and city make grand public gestures about school closings, they’re doing nothing of substance to address the space issue.
If new schools were truly the panacea they’re made out to be, they’d embrace troublesome, learning disabled and non-English speaking students, and magically make them graduate in four years no matter what. In practice, such students are far more likely to be sent to endangered comprehensive high schools. In the case of Beach Channel, it seems to have been sent the toughest of Far Rockaway’s kids even before Far Rockaway closed. After its closure, the trend continued, leading many to ask whether Beach Channel was set up for failure. Does anyone really believe newly created schools will embrace these kids? More likely, they’ll load up remaining neighborhood schools with them, causing even more closures.
Many of the critics see the closing as emblematic of what they do not like about Bloomberg's education policies: what they see as an over-reliance on numbers, a failure to consult with the community and neglect of some of the system's most challenging students. With the mayor seen as having lost some of his luster -- and with a new teachers' union president whose rhetoric, if not action, is more combative than that of his predecessor -- teachers, parents and some elected officials have been willing and even eager to speak out.