The Department of Education (DOE) has come under harsh criticism from members of Long Island City High School after announcing plans to cut enrollment.
According to Ken Achiron, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader at LIC High School, the DOE plans to cut the incoming ninth grade class from 1,000 to 440 students. He added the plan would entail $3 million in cuts to the school’s budget and the loss of 30 staff members.
“They have capped our incoming class below the numbers needed to maintain our quality programs,” said Achiron.
“The budget will hurt all grades, including seniors who expected courses to be available when they were scheduled to take them.”
The high school was in danger of closing last year when officials put it on a turnaround list alongside Flushing High School and 22 other city schools. Members of the LIC High School community believe the planned cut in enrollment is an attempt to close the school through other methods.
“It’s a good school, it’s a proficient school. They are doing very well and they survived the turnaround,” said James Vasquez, UFT representative for Queens high schools. “This isn’t about teachers losing their jobs; the issue is what it does to that school community. What’s happening here is the destruction of the school community.”
Yet, according to the DOE, the enrollment cuts are only a response to what has already been occurring at the school for years.
“Since 2007-2008, we have seen a 34 percent decrease in ninth grade enrollment and we’re expecting further drops next year,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “That’s as neighborhood parents have clamored for new, smaller, high-performing school options.”
The reduction would not be expected to take place until the 2014-2015 school year. LIC High School will have around 2,000 students after the decrease.
“An enrollment reduction would reflect what’s already occurring: lower parent demand for Long Island City High School and higher demand for alternatives,” said Puglia.
The DOE said it has been in communication with the community and that it might open a new school with a smaller student body. The department added that such a center would likely be a career and technical education school in the LIC High School building.