Northeast Queens officials urge DOE to halt removal of geographic priorities for high school admissions –

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Northeast Queens officials on Friday called on the city’s Department of Education to suspend the removal of geographic priorities during the high school admissions process, which the agency is now “re-evaluating. Before announcing a final decision.

In a letter to New York Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter during her final weeks as DOE chair, Congressman Edward Braunstein and Senator John Liu urged the agency to rethink the policy that would apply. to 235 high schools which give priority to the districts from 2022.

The DOE has not made a final decision on whether to suspend or maintain the removal of geographic priorities, according to a spokesperson for the agency.

“We are reassessing the policy to remove borough and secondary school zone priorities from this admissions cycle based on the feedback we have received from school communities. As always, we put the needs of families first and will share details soon, ”said Katie O’Hanlon.

Lawmakers have cited school overcrowding and lack of transportation in northeast Queens as reasons not to move forward with removing geographic priorities.

“With many high schools in Queens operating at well above 100% capacity, and in one case even over 200%, the construction of new high schools on suitable sites and the increase in available places in the borough is expected. be a top priority, “said Braunstein.” In addition to chronic overcrowding in the Borough’s schools, Queens students face a unique lack of transportation options, particularly in the eastern part of the Borough We urge the DOE to put the elimination of geographic priorities in Queens on hold until the city can sufficiently alleviate the existing overcrowding in high schools in the Borough.

According to DOE data from the 2019-2020 school year enrollment, capacity and utilization report, Bayside High School is currently operating at 134% while Benjamin N. Cardozo High School is operating at 141%. Data also shows Queens high schools are the busiest in the city, exceeding capacity by almost 9,000 seats.

The letter detailed the addition of an annex to Cardozo, which they said “alleviated some of the overcrowding”, but they stressed that more needed to be done, including the construction of new school buildings on “sites”. appropriate throughout the borough “.

Lawmakers have also addressed the transport problem in much of eastern Queens, including lack of access to the underground, city buses which offer “long trips and often unreliable service” and over 12 000 teens in Queens who already commute between two and three hours to school. .

“The end of the geographic priority at the 11th hour injects chaos and uncertainty into an already complicated high school application process,” said Liu, chairman of the Senate committee on education in New York. “Queens desperately needs both more high school seats and transportation options, and this last minute change sends our kids out of the borough without public transportation to get them there. We must maintain geographic priority indefinitely, lest we leave yet another mess for the new administration to clean up. “

Braunstein and Liu said the Queens High School Presidents’ Council and District 26 Community Education Council recently submitted formal opposition to the policy, citing many of the same concerns.

Chalkbeat reported that the DOE has proposed sweeping changes to the college and high school application processes to diversify one of the most segregated school systems in the country, which favors white and affluent families.

Geographical elimination has always been conceived of as a two-year proposition, according to the DOE. In the first year, the agency said 48 schools in the city removed their district priorities, 27 schools were prioritizing students living in certain areas for some of their seats, and one school was prioritizing students. living in certain areas for all seats.

The agency said the process “demonstrated the value of removing district priorities” and also gave them time to assess what communities thought of the policy.

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