Even though the Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to close Jamaica High School was finalized in February, current students are still hoping for a quality education.
Currently in the process of being phased out, Jamaica High School no longer accepts new students and is expected to close its doors for good in 2014.
But while class may still be in session, parents and local officials feel the DOE has turned its back on a struggling school.
Senator Tony Avella joined Jamaica High School students and faculty on Monday, December 5 to address what he feels is a lack of support in a school’s time of need.
“The DOE has consistently failed to honor its commitment to Jamaica High School and the students are suffering,” Avella said. “The DOE’s lack of commitment to Jamaica is the reason the school is closing to begin with.”
According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, each school is allotted a certain amount of funds per pupil. He said Jamaica High School also recently received a $50,000 grant for technology and a $221,000 grant from the city because of their Title One status as a failing school.
“We want to give students access to high-quality education, and [the school is not] giving them that,” Thomas said.
But Avella said the school has yet to see a dime.
“They have yet to provide the necessary resources for students and current programs,” said Avella, who alleged that physics, chemistry and French programs have all been cut. He also said that classrooms are overcrowded, paper is scarce and teachers fight over a piece of chalk.
“Not giving them resources is beyond disgraceful, it’s shameful,” said Avella.
Before deciding to close a school, the DOE examines everything from enrollment to school surveys, attendance and progress reports. According to Thomas, Jamaica High School received an “F” on its latest progress report and is in the bottom eight percent of graduation rates across the city. Thomas said that when poorly performing schools are shut down, new schools are set up in their place with new teachers and a new program.
“When we close a school, we aim to open a new, better school in its place,” said Thomas.
Jamaica High School shares a campus with four other schools, including the newly-formed Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences — which recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its first successful semester.