Students at saved Turnaround schools reflect on first day of classes


| tcullen@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen
THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

On September 6 students started a new school year at Grover Cleveland High School, one of seven Queens schools that were rescued from Turnaround this year.

The first bell of the school year rang yesterday for a number of Queens high schools that were planned to lay dormant this year.

Seven schools slated for Turnaround started classes on Thursday, September 6 after a nearly year-long battle to stay open.

An arbitrator’s ruling to let all teachers keep their jobs and open the institutions this fall under their original names was upheld in State Supreme Court at the end of July. But the threat of closing by the state after this year, however, is still open if the schools don’t shape up.

Over at Long Island City High School, students lined up to review their course schedules before the start of the day.

Tenth graders Sohela Elgaramouni and Ouissal Elkharraz were happy to return to the school they knew and loved.

“We’re happy to see all our old teachers and most of the kids are still there,” said Elkharraz. “I don’t feel like a freshman again.”

But first-day jitters lingered long after dismissal for Flushing High School freshman Riana Painson.

Painson, 14, said she felt lost roaming around a new school and overwhelmed at having classrooms so far from one another.

“I felt lost, but I would have been more lost [if Turnaround happened],” Painson said.

Flushing senior Kassandra Marie said she was happy to walk into a school she was familiar with for three years, but already had one foot out the door.

“I’m used to Flushing High School already. I didn’t want to start all over again,” the 19 year old said. “But I just want to leave already, move on with my life and go to college.”

Magdalen Radovic is the current interim acting principal of Flushing High School, according to Department of Education spokesperson Marge Feinberg. But a C-30 process to find a permanent principal is in progress, she said.

Olga Perez stood outside of Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood near day’s end waiting for her granddaughter, junior Kayla Vargas, who had her first day there after transferring from a Manhattan high school.

Grover Cleveland was removed from the list of 26 city Turnaround schools hours before the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close them.

Perez’s children had gone to Grover Cleveland and she was relieved to hear the school would remain open when her granddaughter went to register.

Work still had to be done at the school, Perez said, referencing a high level of violence in the school. On the first day of school, though, she said things seemed quiet and would continue to.

“I was impressed by it,” she said. “I just hope it gets better and not worse.”

Other failed Turnaround high schools that opened its doors under the same staff and original names Thursday include Richmond Hill, Newtown, August Martin, Bryant and John Adams.

Additional reporting by Melissa Chan and Alexa Altman