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Large high schools still find favor in Queens, if not at Tweed

Rejecting small schools with themes like social justice or green jobs as “boutique schools,” parents in central Queens are demanding that the city build them a large, comprehensive high school. And, after years of the city closing big schools and championing those boutiques, city officials have agreed.

At a meeting in central Queens last night, Executive Director of School Improvement Alex Shub said the Department of Education intended to build a 1,100-seat school building in Maspeth. The school will open in 2011 or 2012, depending on how quickly the city finds and hires the right principal, Shub said. But when it does, it will be one school, not several small high schools housed in a single campus as has become the norm.

“People want one large comprehensive school. You don’t want a bunch of boutique schools, a dance school, a school for lawyers,” Shub said to the parents assembled at P.S. 58.

“It sounds like people speaking now are interested in a comprehensive school that is going to give your kids every opportunity for success. And I can guarantee you a school that can do that.”

Officials said the high school would open inside of the new Metropolitan Avenue campus, where it would spend a year before moving to a new building on 74th Street in Maspeth. The large high school would eventually grow to house 1,000 students, and 100 seats would be set aside for a District 75 program, which serves the city’s most disabled students.

Another feature that makes the new school unusual is that it will give admissions preference to students in District 24. Though Chancellor Joel Klein has touted the expansion of school choice — schools that aren’t zoned, meaning students from anywhere in the city can attend — parents have lobbied fiercely for admissions preference for students in certain towns within District 24. The city’s compromise has been to zone the school for the district, but not for an area within it.

“What I want to see is a locally zoned school,” said Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council for District 24.

“This is a very very large district and you’re going to have kids traveling from as far away as 5.5 miles. If we can’t say the words “locally zoned,” I’d like people in the Department of Education to open their eyes when they go down the list of addresses and accept students.”

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