Wait to go Tony!
Politicians charge that Jamaica High School's being neglected, vow to fight closureBY Clare Trapasso
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Wednesday, January 5th 2011, 4:00 AM
Several specialized schools that were moved into the Gothic Drive building to eventually replace Jamaica High as the lone tenant are less crowded and better equipped, said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who vowed to fight the city's proposal to phase out Jamaica after touring its building Saturday with local leaders.
They met with the principals of the four schools - including Jamaica High - that now occupy the building and compared class sizes and resources.
"It was an eyeopener," said Avella, who was joined on the tour by City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
"Jamaica High School students are now second-class citizens," Avella said.
Classes at Jamaica have as many as 38 students, said teachers union rep James Eterno.
Meanwhile, at the High School for Community Leadership, classes top out at 24 kids and the largest class at the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy has 26 students, Avella said. The city created the two schools last fall to also occupy the Jamaica High School building.
Classes at Queens Collegiate: A College Board School, which also occupies the building, have as many as 32 students, Avella said. But every classroom is equipped with a smart board and each student has a computer.
But Jamaica High School, which has approximately 1,200 students, has only two functioning smart boards and roughly 120 computers - and many of the machines don't work, Eterno said. The cash-strapped school has also been forced to cut its music program and scale back its after-school and tutoring sessions.
City Education Department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said that new schools receive startup funding they can use to purchase technology.
"Struggling schools like Jamaica see decreased enrollment because parents are choosing better options for their kids," he said in a statement. "And smaller schools naturally have smaller budgets."
The city has proposed turning the school's successful Jamaica Gateway School of the Sciences into its own school in the fall.
But Avella would rather the city pump resources and money into Jamaica High School. He threatened to sue to keep the school open if the Panel for Educational Policy votes to phase it out at its February meeting. A judge blocked the city from closing it in early 2010.
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