Tag Archives: Department of Education

De Blasio details after-school program expansion plan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Updated 1:55 p.m.

Mayor Bill de Blasio released an interagency report Monday detailing plans to expand after-school programs to more public middle school students in the city.

The implementation would place programs in all schools with middle school students that do not currently have after-school services as well as non-public school sites, such as community centers and libraries, according to the report.

The expansion, like de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten, will require an increase on local income tax for the city’s highest earners.

“This is a critical investment that will transform our schools—but it is also a powerful policy to keep kids out of trouble and fight the influences that can take them off the right path. We need the power to make this investment now,” the mayor said.

De Blasio said the city has “the capacity to ramp up immediately.” But what is still needed, however, is the funding, which would require approval from Albany for the tax increase.

The $190 million proposal will provide an additional 62,791 middle school students with the opportunity to attend free after-school programs, starting in September 2014.

Currently, the Department of Education and Department of Youth and Community Development provide after-school programs that serve approximately 56,369 students in 239 schools each year. The expansion will increase the number of schools with programs to 512.

Funding would also go toward boosting existing programs by increasing their hours of operation.

 

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Katz names Queens representative on Panel for Educational Policy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Borough President Melinda Katz

Borough President Melinda Katz has picked Deborah Dillingham of Forest Hills to serve on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP).

The 13-member board, with representatives from each borough, votes to approve school policies, many which are controversial. Each borough president appoints one member to the PEP and the mayor appoints eight.

“Through her extensive work with our city’s school system, Deborah has shown she has the knowledge, savvy and commitment necessary to be an outstanding member of the Panel for Educational Policy,” Katz said.

Dillingham was president of District 28’s Community Education Council and served on the Queens Borough President’s Parent Advisory Committee, the District 28 Leadership Team and the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee.

The mom of three was also president of the Parent’s Association of P.S. 101.

“She cares deeply about our children and the schooling they receive and has a track record of making sure our kids get the best education possible,” Katz said. “I know she will be a great asset to the PEP.”

Dillingham replaces Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s appointee, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who battled against school closures and co-location plans under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

Fedkowskyj, of Middle Village, is mulling a run against incumbent State Senator Marge Markey.

 

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Parents, pols oppose temporary relocation plan for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents is sending the Department of Education (DOE) back to the drawing board.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave., to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation of sending the school’s kindergarten and first grade students to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The temporary relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I commend the DOE and the SCA for allocating millions of dollars towards this expansion,” Crowley said. “At the same time, though, we must ensure that our children, especially our youngest elementary students, are not displaced to a school outside of the confines of their own neighborhood.”

Last month, the elected officials sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urging her to reconsider the proposed plan.

According to the DOE’s proposal, the incoming kindergarten class and some first grade students would be transported by bus to P.S. 171, close to three miles away from their zoned school. Then for the 2015-16 school year the children would be relocated to a new elementary school located at 39-07 57th Street. For the third year, the students would then return to P.S. 11.

Woodside parent Julianne O’Riordan currently has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11, and her youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year.

“For the first three years of school he’s going to be moved around Queens like a piece on a chess board,” said O’Riordan, about her youngest son, Enda. “We love P.S. 11, its principal, teachers and staff. That is why we are upset that our younger children may not get to have the same wonderful experience that our daughter has enjoyed.”


Enda,4, and his 5-year-old brother Luke will have to go to P.S. 171 next year. (Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan)

Although the group of parents and elected officials are thrilled to be getting an expansion for the crowded school, they are calling on the DOE to look at different options that would keep the children in the community.

“Taking these kids and moving them miles away to school is going to damage their education and slow them down in their progress and it’s something we impose upon the [DOE] to fix, and fix before it becomes a problem,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said.

Throughout the process of deciding the best course of action during the estimated three year construction, consideration was given to every possible option, according to the DOE.

“Our aim is to deliver a state-of-the-art addition to the building, and as part of our newly announced engagement protocol, we will be scheduling a meeting with the entire school community,” said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield.

 

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Mayor de Blasio: City ready for pre-K plan if funding is secured


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A progress report released by Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday shows the city has the capacity to implement his plan for universal pre-kindergarten starting this September—if the funding is available.

The report, “Ready to Launch,” found that though classroom space and quality programming is obtainable, securing funding for the plan remains the main challenge.

“This is real, this is achievable, but this something we can’t do without sustained dedicated resources,” de Blasio said.

In January, the mayor released his plan to provide free full-day pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in the city by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

The mayor would need permission from Albany for the increase, and could face roadblocks from state lawmakers.

At an average cost of $10,239 per child, 73,250 children would be eligible for full-day pre-kindergarten by the 2015-16 school year, beginning with 53,604 in September 2014.

The city needs 21,000 seats to meet its goal for this fall, according to the mayor. Since it began asking for proposals and applications from schools and community-based organizations, the Department of Education has received proposals for 29,000 seats.

The proposals also offer detailed plans on curriculum and how the schools and organizations will identify, train and support teaching staff.

“We already know demand from families for high quality, full-day pre-K is exceptionally high – and these numbers confirm that we are ready to deliver,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said.

“The number of sites and seats proposed far exceeds numbers from last year,” with a 93 percent jump in the number of full-day sites proposed compared to last year’s results, according to the report.

In Queens, 113 sites were proposed in 2013. This year, there were 214.

 

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NYC recovers from another storm; more snow in forecast


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Victor G. Mimoni

Updated 6:50 p.m.

The borough was once again buried in almost a foot of snow after the sixth storm of the season struck the city Thursday, and even more flakes could fall this weekend.

Snowfall totals around Queens varied, but Bayside reported as much as 11.8 inches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

For the second day in a row, residents faced a less-than-perfect morning commute with a hazardous travel advisory still in effect through Friday morning.

The MTA said service should be close to normal on subways, buses and Long Island Rail Road for the evening commute.

The situation for commuters Friday was much better than yesterday morning when heavy snow coated the roads.

Despite those dangerous conditions the city’s public schools were open Thursday.

Parents, students, teachers and even famed weatherman Al Roker blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to keep the schools open.

De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, however, defended the move.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said Thursday. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent yesterday, according to a preliminary report from the Department of Education (DOE) released Thursday afternoon.

Public schools were again open Friday and all field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities are operating normally, the DOE said.

“We understand that weather conditions may be challenging for families. As always, parents should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children. Safety is a top priority for the Department, and we make these decisions only after careful consideration. We want to thank parents, students, and educators for your cooperation during this very difficult winter,” Fariña said.

Alternate side parking regulations, and garbage and recycling pick-up are suspended through Saturday.

The Department of Sanitation will likely be spending the weekend clearing snow off the streets.

The city agency has issued a “snow alert” starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

About 2 to 4 inches of snow could fall during the day tomorrow, starting in the early morning, according to NWS.

 

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Decision to keep NYC public schools open despite snow creates more controversy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Updated 4:30 p.m. 

Parents of public school students are telling city officials, they failed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday night that the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, despite the forecast of 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow.

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent, according to a preliminary report from the DOE released Thursday afternoon.

Although, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the snow came down “heavier and faster” than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, he said the right decision was made.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

Schools have been canceled only a total of 11 times since 1978, according to de Blasio.

“It’s a rarity and it’s something we do not do lightly,” he said.

Both the mayor and schools chancellor said they want to open up communication so parents understand the thinking that goes into making the decision to keep schools open.

“It’s our obligation to run a school system,” he said. “Given what we knew, we knew our children could get to school safely.”

Yet, even as Fariña said it had turned into a “beautiful day” after the morning snow, parents were outraged with the idea that their children’s lives were put in danger.

“I decided to not send my kids to school because it is too dangerous out there. The roads, at least by me are bad, buses are getting stuck and I don’t want to risk it,” said Michelle Rojas, mother of two from Flushing. “[City officials] are not thinking. They can make the days up.”

Sara Alvarez, mother of three, said she learned her lesson from the last snowstorm and did not want to go through the “chaos” once again.

“One day less of class doesn’t matter, what’s most important is the security of our children,” she said. “The last snowstorm was chaos and can you imagine when it comes to dismissal? It’ll be a whole other chaos.”

One local school bus operator, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although all her “dedicated” workers made it in and every bus went out on its route to pick up students, she is still concerned about the conditions on the road.

“I am livid. This is a very dangerous storm,” she said. “I am very concerned about school buses driving in this condition. I will not be happy until all the buses come back today.”

Fariña said students and staff would have excused lateness during such snow emergencies, but absences would still not be excused.

“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”

Field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities, however, are all cancelled today.

 

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NYC public schools will be open Thursday


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has announced the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, as the Big Apple expects another round of snow.

All school field trips will be canceled Fariña said Wednesday night. Families with busing questions are asked to call 718-392-8855.

As always, parents should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children, the schools chancellor said in a statement. “Safety is a top priority for the department.”

Public schools have only closed once on Jan. 3, during the year’s first major snowstorm. They were kept open during the Jan. 22 storm which left the city with almost a foot of snow. Schools were also kept opened during a Feb. 5 storm that brought icy conditions.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasted 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow through Friday morning. A Winter Storm Warning will be in effect from midnight tonight until 6 a.m. Friday.

Wednesday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed state agencies to prepare for the impending Nor’easter winter storm.

Snow will develop around 3 a.m., and continue throughout the day before tapering off about 24 hours later. During the day, with temperatures hovering around the mid-30s, there will be a mixture of snow, sleet and rain, according to the NWS.

 

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DOE extends deadline for families to apply for kindergarten


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Parents will now have more time to register their children for kindergarten.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that the Department of Education (DOE) is extending the deadline for families to apply to kindergarten from Friday, Feb. 14 until Thursday, Feb. 20.

Hard copy directories of schools are available at elementary schools and enrollment offices, in order to help families narrow down their options. The directories are also available online here.

For the first time, families can apply this year via a single online application called “Kindergarten Connect.” Parents can apply by visiting here or searching www.nyc.gov for “Kindergarten Connect.”

According to the DOE, the application allows parents to list their options in order of preference, with zones and admissions priorities remaining unchanged. 

Parents can also apply over the phone by calling 718-935-2400, in which over-the-phone interpretation service is available in over 200 languages, or in person at any of the DOE’s 13 enrollment offices. A complete listing of Borough Enrollment Offices and hours of operation can be found here.

 

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NYC public schools remain open Wednesday


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The Department of Education will keep all public schools open Wednesday, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina  announced, as the city expects icy conditions from its second snowstorm this week.

All school field trips are canceled, however, Fariña said about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Families with busing issues are asked to call 718-392-8855.

Parents, as always, should exercise their own judgment with regard to their children,” the schools chancellor said. “Safety is a top priority for the department.”

Though the city has been slammed with snowstorms since the start of the year, public schools have only closed once on Jan. 3, during the year’s first major snowstorm.

They were kept open Jan. 22, during the next storm that left the city with almost a foot of snow.

The decision angered parents and students, especially at Bayside High School, where a shortage of teachers forced students to waste the day in the auditorium, The Courier reported.

Two to four inches of snow is predicted for the area, as well as about one third of an inch of ice, the National Weather Service said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio warned city residents of a “difficult morning commute.”

A “hazardous travel advisory” is in effect for the area Wednesday, the New York City Office of Emergency Management said. The Department of Sanitation  issued a ‘snow alert’ for Tuesday, starting at 10 p.m.

About eight inches were already dumped on the area Monday. Another storm is expected this weekend.

 

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Local leaders applaud city’s call to save Gifted & Talented seats


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Local leaders are hailing the city’s decision to allow all District 26 elementary school students enrolled in Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs to be grandfathered into middle school programs.

“There is no more important issue in our community than the education of our students,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “The new policy reflects the children and parents in District 26 and will allow families to focus on getting their children off to a strong start in middle school.”

Parents were outraged when they learned students would no longer be automatically accepted into their local middle school G&T programs.

Fifth grade students would have to submit applications and seek admission to middle school G&T programs based on their fourth grade New York State ELA and math scores, the Department of Education (DOE) previously said.

More than 750 people signed an online petition, protesting the abrupt change.

“The Gifted and Talented programs in our schools are vitally important to the education of our students,” said Congressmember Grace Meng. “After listening closely to the needs of parents, the community, and elected officials, I applaud the Department of Education for its decision to add more G&T seats in District 26 as well as allow current students through fifth grade to remain in the program.”

According to Councilmember Mark Weprin, the DOE will also create more middle school G&T programs for high-performing general education students.

“With the opening of additional classes for incoming students who qualify for the program, the agreement is good news for parents across the district,” he said.

 

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De Blasio releases report, gives testimony in Albany on pre-K plan


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYCMayorsOffice

Mayor Bill de Blasio testified in Albany Monday on an interagency report he released the same day detailing plans to provide free full-day pre-kindergarten for every 4-year-old in the city by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

“The reality is that today, fewer than 27 percent of 4-year-olds in New York City have access to full-day pre-K,” the mayor said.

To authorize the tax hikes, he will need permission from Albany lawmakers.

Specifically, he is asking for an income tax surcharge, which would increase the current 3.9 percent rate to a 4.4 percent rate on those with annual incomes of a half-million dollars or more over the next five years.

It would also allow for the expansion of middle school extended learning programs, de Blasio said.

At an average cost of $10,239 per child, under the plan, 73,250 children would be eligible for full-day pre-kindergarten by the 2015-2016 school year, beginning with 53,604 in September 2014.

The total cost is estimated at $340 million annually, with $97 million dedicated to start-up infrastructure and costs required to upgrade program quality in the first year.

The plan will require approximately 2,000 new classrooms in public schools and community-based settings across the city, according to the Department of Education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide plan for universal, full-day pre-kindergarten in his budget address last week, with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion over the next five years. The state would fully fund the program.

“That’s an idea we strongly endorse and we appreciate his leadership on this issue,” de Blasio said.

But he said the funding must be  “predictable and consistent,” and isolated from the state budget.

“Universal pre-K and after-school programs must have a dedicated funding stream, a locked box, shielded from what we all know is the inevitable give and take of the budgeting process,” the mayor said.

According to the report, proceeds from “the proposed personal income tax surcharge will be dedicated solely to the expansion and enhancement of New York City’s pre – kindergarten and after-school programs. The city will place these funds in a ‘lockbox.’”

Ready to Launch: New York City’s Implementation Plan for Free, High-Quality, Full-Day Universal Pre-Kinderg… by NYC Mayor’s Office

 

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Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants government to work for his constituents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Councilmember Costa Constantinides wants his constituents to know he is here for them and plans on keeping his two campaign promises – to work hard for them and never lie.

It has been almost four weeks since Constantinides began his position as District 22’s newest councilmember representing Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

From moving into his brand new office, located at 31-09 Newton Ave. in Astoria, to going around meeting his constituents and introducing himself to the community, Constantinides has been busy.

“I understand the work the people in this district have sent me to City Hall to do and I’m making sure their voice is continually heard at City Hall and that’s my job,” he said during an interview with The Courier.

The freshman legislator refers to his new office as the “people’s house” and encourages his constituents to stop by.

“It’s real easy to hear how I’m doing,” he said. “I take a lot of cues from my constituents on the ground as to how things are really working out in the district.”

His plans for the district include working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to bring ferry service to western Queens and also create what he calls a “multi-module transportation system,” including bike lanes and increased bus service.

Constantinides also plans to work on improving schools in the district, whether it be helping reduce subway noise congestion at P.S. 85 or discussing with the Department of Education technological upgrades to bring schools to the 21st century.

Constantinides also wants to introduce a bill requiring corner garbage pickup at the end of every business day, and bring The Doe Fund to the area to help keep the community clean.

Constantinides will hold his inauguration ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Long Island City High School, located at 14-30 Broadway, starting at 3 p.m.

“I think we have a great staff,” he said. “We’re really excited to get out to the neighborhood. We’re really going to be out in the community, hearing concerns that our neighbors have and finding ways to address those concerns. We’re going to be active in being out in the community and being a resource for them to make government better.”

 

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EXCLUSIVE: No snow day forces Bayside HS kids to spend day in auditorium


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

MELISSA CHAN AND MAGGIE HAYES

A shortage of teachers at Bayside High School, after this year’s biggest snowstorm so far, forced students to spend the day in the gym and auditorium.

“We just wasted a whole day,” said senior Ibrahim A. “It’s pointless to be here when we’re not doing any work.”

After students reported to school Wednesday at 8 a.m., school officials found they didn’t have enough teachers to monitor all of the students, according to parents and students.

They were then told to call their parents to pick them right back up again.

“There had to be 35, 40 parents on line waiting to get their kids,” said Michele M. who grabbed her 15-year-old daughter around 11 a.m. “What was the point of opening up?”

Michele’s daughter and multiple students said at least 40 teachers were absent.

“More than half of my teachers didn’t even come, and more than half that did didn’t even get to teach,” said Jane, a freshman. “I just sat in the auditorium and watched Iron Man 2. I slept through most of it.”

Another freshman said he walked into school around noon and a dean told him to go home.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina made the call to keep schools open around 11:20 p.m. the night of the storm, Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who participated in the decision, said the National Weather Service “made clear that just as the snow had intensified earlier, it was slowing very noticeably around 10 p.m.”

“It was clear at that point we would have a much better situation by morning,” he said. “We knew we could do a good job overnight of clearing the streets.”

Despite de Blasio’s confidence, Ibrahim said there were barely any teachers and students at school the next day.

They were kept in the auditorium and “just walked out” before noon.

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Decision to keep NYC public schools open upsets parents


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Updated at 11:40 a.m.

MELISSA CHAN AND MAGGIE HAYES

All New York City public schools will remain open Wednesday, education officials announced, dashing hopes city students might have about getting a second snow day this month, and angering parents who had to send their kids off.

“Keeping my kids home. Unsafe and crazy to keep school open. Guarantee plenty are doing the same as well as teachers having a hard time getting in,” Margaret Gomez said on The Courier’s Facebook page.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña made the call  Tuesday night at about 11:20 p.m., but warned “travel conditions may be difficult.”

“Families should exercise their own judgment when taking their children to school,” the notice said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he participated in the decision to keep schools open and that it was “the right thing to do.”

“We only close schools when it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “We judged that we could go forward with school effectively today.”

School buses and mass transit are functioning “not perfectly, but well enough,” as of Wednesday morning, de Blasio said.

All after-school programs, field trips and PSAL games are also back to operating on a normal schedule, the schools chancellor announced.

The city closed public schools just a little more than two weeks ago on Jan. 3, during “Hercules,” the first major snowstorm of 2014.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday’s snow storm – with its predicted 10 to 14 inches of flakes and freezing temperatures – was on pace to be larger than the first.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning from 12 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday. The snow was not expected to taper off until 3 or 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Queens accumulated up to 11 inches of snow in some neighborhoods, according to the NWS.

 

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Attorney postpones $25M lawsuit as Avonte Oquendo’s family awaits test results


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 2:52

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

As tests are underway to determine if the human remains and clothing found in College Point belong to missing teen Avonte Oquendo, the family’s lawyer has decided to hold back on the lawsuit until the results are known.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police also found jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said. Another arm and a skull were additionally found over the weekend. As of Monday, the search is continuing at the scene in College Point. 

Police said most of the body has been recovered.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s family is still remaining hopeful, even though the developing investigation have been “weakening” for them, said Perecman.

“They’re a strong group so they’re doing the best they can,” said Perecman. “A small window has opened up of recognition of the grim reality. But they are still holding on hope.”

Perecman said they hope to have the test results by Wednesday.

He initially said on Friday that he would be filing a lawsuit Monday, focused against the Department of Education and school safety, seeking $25 million. Yet now he said he will be holding off with the lawsuit until the test results come in because the “nature of the lawsuit could change.”

The autistic teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

 

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