Van Buren, Other Co-Locations Approved

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

After a tumultuous mixture of community protest, input and support, the Dept. of Education approved a co-location for Martin Van Buren High School.

With the vote taking place on Oct. 30, the DOE’s Panel of Educational Policy went forward with co-locations for eight schools in Queens, including Van Buren. The co-location will add a Career and Technical Education early college and career high school (also known as P-Tech) inside the walls of Martin Van Buren, starting in the 2014-2015 school year.

During the public hearing about the co-location on Oct. 23 and its subsequent analysis, the DOE addressed many of the concerns the public had. While many said the administration needed more resources, the DOE said MVB’s graduation rate had fallen from 71 percent in 2009-2010 to 56 percent in 2011-2012. It added that the co-location will increase educational options.

“Co-locations allow us to use our limited facilities efficiently while simultaneously creating additional educational options for New York City families,” the DOE said in the hearing analysis.

The DOE also said the new school will not drain resources from MVB, but the budget is based on student population, which is going to be reduced over a period of four years, dropping from 2,176 to between 1,585 and 1,625 students by the 2017-2018 school year.

While some commented that the new school should offer priority to students in the district, the DOE said it will prioritize Queens students as a whole, adding that it will not impact Van Buren’s ability to accommodate all of the zoned students who apply to its zoned program.

While elected officials, faculty members, students and the United Federation of Teachers are against the co-location, nine civic groups are in favor of the new school.

“Decades of decline have basically killed the Martin Van Buren brand. Parents in our community will simply not send their kids there. The promise of P-Tech as a co-location is the catalyst needed for change,” Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, said.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) disagreed, feeling the co-location would harm the work Martin Van Buren principal Sam Sochet has been doing to turn the school around.

“The co-location puts a knife right in the back of all of that, and destroys everything we’ve been working for. Any time you have a co-location, it takes away from the regular school,” Avella said. “The parents and students are against the co-location.”

Besides MVB, Long Island City High School, Corona Arts and Science Academy, August Martin High School in St. Albans, PS 40 and MS 72 in Jamaica, IS 59 in Springfield Gardens and JHS 226 in South Ozone Park will have another school within their walls in the next couple of years.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.