TOP HIGH SCHOOLS 2021
As a graduate of Forest Hills High School (Class of 1957), I was shocked to learn that 4,000 students now attend my alma mater. That’s nearly four times the number when I went there, and many of them live far from Forest Hills.
Parents complain that students don’t have enough room for the social distancing required by COVID-19 protocols.
The reason for overcrowding at FHHS and other high schools is a change in admission policy that occurred under former mayor Mike Bloomberg. Students were enrolled in the high school closest to their home for more than a century.
That changed in 2004, when the Department of Education introduced a school choice program requiring all 8th graders to submit a list of 12 high schools they
wish to attend, no matter where they lived.
The DOE would match student preferences with each school’s attendance capacity. The intent was noble, but the results are a nightmare.
Schools with a high rate of college admissions, like FHHS, are flooded with students, while under-performing schools lose students and funding, which is based on enrollment. Thus they have fewer resources to improve.
The DOE must restore the zone-based system of high school enrollment except for the eight specialized high schools that require a rigorous admissions test.
This will create a fairer balance of enrollment at all high schools and a better education for all of our city’s students.
Kew Gardens Hills
Following the first week of in-person learning, hundreds of families enjoyed a back-to-school festival at the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens (VBGC) in Astoria, marking the start of a new school year.
With the support of over a dozen community partners, the all-day celebration included school supply giveaways, local food vendors and outdoor activities for hundreds of students in Queens.
With last year’s back-to-school festival cancelled due to the pandemic, club CEO Costa Constantinides said it was extra special to help students feel normal again in a kid-friendly atmosphere.
With six sites serving over 4,000 area youth, the club is the largest youth services provider in western Queens.
“Today is a celebration,” Constantinides said. “We understand the gravity of the responsibility we have to provide them with an after-school experience and help them get back to normal.”
As a father of a son who hasn’t seen the classroom in over 18 months, Constantinides stressed the importance of the educational resources available at the club, as well as helping families through tough times.
“I know so many children in New York City who had a very similar situation,” he said. “From dealing with the angst of COVID, a family member losing their job or losing a family member, we hope to help them through the tension of this pandemic and help them feel like a kid again.”
School supplies were available to families through donations from the offices of Borough President Donovan Richards and State Senator Mike Gianaris, corporate sponsors and volunteer drives. Both Richards and Gianaris made appearances at the all-day event.
The hot and sunny day also called for Constantinides to sit in the dunk tank, making a splash for a good cause.
Elsbeth Grant, the club’s Chief Advancement Officer, would also be a dunk tank victim, saying it was wonderful to have kids back at the club playing again.
“It feels so great to have kids back at the club safely,” said Grant. “We want going back to school to be an exciting experience. I’m sure it can be scary with everything going on, we just want to support our community by making it fun and helping them prepare to go back to the classroom.”
Community partners joining the festival included Chip Cookies, San Antonio’s Wood Fired Pizza, Ample Hill Creamery and STEM learning from the BioBus. A vaccine pop-up station was also made available by the state Department of Health.
Volunteer Ashley Dean helped organize a school supply drive with her local running group, and chose the club to be the recipients of the backpacks and notebooks she collected over a month-long period.
“School is expensive for a lot of families,” said Dean. “People have multiple children so it’s nice to be able to ease a burden. Setting the kids up to succeed is important, especially right now.”
Distribute items for needy families at Brooklyn Hospital
Full in-person learning returns to public schools this fall
When is the proposal for a new school and playground not a good idea? When they are proposed for the wrong location without real community input, located on a narrow street creating a traffic nightmare, and being rushed through for approval at the end of a political term.
The proposal by the School Construction Authority (SCA) for a new school at 24th Avenue and Waters Edge Drive in Bay Terrace in northeastern Queens is significantly flawed. It comes at the end of this mayoral administration and months before a new City Council member for the district can take office.
First and foremost, SCA should put this proposal on hold until a new mayor and council member can fully evaluate whether a new school is needed in this specific neighborhood.
Only a few blocks away, P.S. 169 is already under construction, adding over 600 additional seats. I also understand that presently PS 169 has seats available.
The proposed new school site itself is on a narrow road with no parking. The street filters onto Bell Boulevard exactly at the entrance to the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, already a congested intersection.
Adding school buses and parents dropping off and picking up their children will only further exacerbate a crowded traffic situation.
The land is an historic landfill with possible underground contaminants, and may also include wetlands. These conditions should necessitate a full environmental impact statement before any possible negotiations with the property owner should begin.
Which SCA clearly will not do. The SCA can even beginning the process of purchasing this site without fully investigating these conditions is fiscally irresponsible.
The adjoining proposal for a new playground across the street seems to have been made solely to bolster the argument for the school, providing a few parking spots and a playground for the school children.
Unfortunately, the playground proposal also is short sighted for the same reasons as the school. This is the dead end of 24th Avenue, again creating a dangerous traffic situation for future park users.
Given its proposed location, a deserted dead-end street with little to no visibility, it can only become a potential late-night hangout.
I applaud the inclusion of $20 million in the city budget for construction of this playground, but not its location.
A much better location is nearby Little Bay Park and Fort Totten, which is much more accessible to residents of Bay Terrace and surrounding communities. That site has a large parking lot and a wonderful comfort station and is accessible by city bus.
Parks officials have long sought additional funding for Little Bay Park and Fort Totten. The $20 million would be a boom for both parks and create a more utilized and safer new playground.
Another reason against the proposed playground location is that although the lot on Waters Edge Drive and 24th Avenue is parkland, it currently is and has been for decades used by the Bay Terrace Country Club as a parking lot for the pool club. Taking away this parking lot would doom the club. The club has stated it has a 99-year lease on this property and obviously would contest the lease being vacated.
The club has been a great resource for Bay Terrace and Queens for over six decades, and it would be a tremendous loss for everyone if should have to close because of the loss of parking.
In addition, in the middle of both sites is a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sewage pumping station with facilities underneath and on the street and sidewalk.
I understand that only this week was DEP made aware of these proposals. Did no one bother to check what issues are present on these sites? Does it make sense to build a school and playground immediately adjacent to a sewage, odor producing, pumping station? Of course not!
For all of these reasons I oppose the new school and the location for the playground.
What should be done, and done immediately, is to put the school proposal on hold until a new mayor and council member have a chance to review its location and its need in this neighborhood.
The SCA should work together with local elected officials, the community board and residents to find an appropriate site that would better serve the children. SCA should turn away from dictating its proposals to working and collaborating with stakeholders.
The proposed playground should also be given a second look and relocated to Little Bay/Fort Totten. Let’s build the playground where everyone can enjoy it and at the same time allow the pool club to continue to serve the community.
To join with me, sign the petition.
Tony Avella is the Democratic candidate for the 19th District in the City Council.
In early July, we were elated to welcome students to classrooms for Summer Rising, the city’s free summer academic and enrichment program. Children were clearly excited to be back with their teachers and friends, and those feelings have only grown over the past few weeks.
In an elementary school in East Harlem, youngsters proudly displayed the solar-powered ovens they’d built to cook s’mores. In a school in Chinatown, students gasped with joy over the “magical” science experiments performed by Jason Latimer of YouTube’s Impossible Science channel.
And in a school in the Bronx, students dove into their lessons and demonstrated an outdoor mindfulness activity.
Experiences like these are reflected in the smiles of hundreds of thousands of children who are in school to learn, play, connect, and grow this summer. Both children and their parents are grateful to have this bridge to the next school year.
We see the first day of school – Monday, September 13 – as a homecoming. In fact, it comes shortly after NYC Homecoming Week, a five-borough celebration of the city’s resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we think ahead to the fall, the health and safety of students and school communities are at the forefront of our planning. We are asking New Yorkers to help with a crucial part of this work: get vaccinated.
The vaccine for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 involves a two-dose regimen, and it takes two weeks from the second shot for someone to be considered fully vaccinated. So, think of this as your doctor’s orders: Schedule your vaccine today if you have not already.
Safely and fully reopening schools this fall is a milestone for our city, and we are eager to see students back in their school communities. We are doing everything in our power to create a safe learning environment, from disinfecting every school, to re-configuring classrooms and improving ventilation, to stocking up on face masks and hand sanitizer.
And last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that school staff must show a one-time proof of vaccination or weekly COVID-19 tests. The new requirement recognizes that the single most important way we can help our children go back to learning, and save lives, is with vaccination.
As parents ourselves, we know the decision to vaccinate is important, and we would do anything to protect our children. The vaccine is safe and very effective. Over 250,000 young New Yorkers have now gotten the shot.
At school, vaccination allows children to be in the classroom, participate in afterschool activities and sports, and gather with friends safely. It also provides a more stable learning environment. For example, students who are considered fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine.
Getting the shot has never been easier in New York City. Access to vaccination is widely available in all five boroughs, and the city is offering a new $100 incentive for anyone (including children) who gets their first dose at a city-run site.
Nearly all New Yorkers live within a half-mile of a public vaccination site, and everyone is eligible to request and receive at-home vaccination.
Pediatricians and other health care providers can also help answer questions, and many are able to give the COVID-19 vaccine at a back-to-school check-up, along with other routine immunizations. If you need a provider, call 1-844-NYC-4NYC and you will be transferred.
We’re so excited to welcome all New York City students back into classrooms in September. Because of vaccination, our buildings will soon be fully open and our young people will be learning. We deeply appreciate the partnership of the city’s families and the commitment to keeping our school communities safe and healthy.
Meisha Porter is chancellor of the Department of Education and Dr. Dave Chokshi, is commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Every year, the Parks Department hosts its annual Movies Under the Stars series, bringing new and classic films to green spaces throughout the five boroughs.
Parks is building upon that tradition this year by showcasing some lesser known filmmakers…the students of New York City public schools.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Education announced that 32 short films created by public school students will be recognized during the 3rd annual New York City Public School Film Festival.
In years past, the student film festival has been held indoors, but this year the event will be held outside and free to the public through the Movies Under the Stars program.
The New York City Public School Film Festival was created to provide an opportunity for students to have their work recognized and consider careers in filmmaking. The films represent the talent and diversity of students citywide, and filmsn were chosen by a panel of teachers and media professionals.
“Congratulations to all the student filmmakers for their insightful and inspiring contributions at this year’s NYC Public School Film Festival,” said Anne del Castillo, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “We are so proud to partner with the Department of Education and renowned award-winning talents to support these young filmmakers.”
“The unique voices featured highlight the diversity and talent of New York City students, and we’re thankful for our arts teachers and school leaders who support our students’ creativity, artistic skills, and critical thinking every day,” added Maria Palma, executive director for the Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.
The film’s showcased during the festival represent a variety of cinematic disciplines, including animation, documentary, and short narrative film. All of the films are between one and five minutes long.
In addition to being a showcase of the best student talent citywide, the NYC Public School Film Festival was created to help emerging student filmmakers consider future careers in the entertainment industry.
To this end, the festival reached out to a variety of professionals in the world of film who will attend this weekend’s events and speak to students about their work.
These include Tamar-kali, the Brooklyn-born composer of the Oscar-nominated Mudbound, and Kemp Powers, the Brooklyn-born, Oscar-nominated co-writer and co-director of the award-winning film Soul and writer of One Night in Miami.
The Public School Film Festival will take place in parks throughout the city. These include a July 9th showing at Travers Park in Queens, a July 10th screening at Central Park in Manhattan, and a July 11th screening at Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
If you are not able to attend in person but still want to watch the work of these talented students, all of the winning films are available to watch online or on YouTube at the NYC Mayor’s Office’s official channel.