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What About the Eighth-Graders?

I am an eighth-grade student at PS/MS 147 in Queens, and I’m sure I’m not the only annoyed eighth-grader in the city. I’m annoyed because after six months of a long, complicated high school admissions process, things got delayed even more a few weeks ago.

In early October 2009, six months ago, every eighth-grader in the city was handed a high school admissions application. We were told to complete this application by ranking the high schools of our choice and to submit it by early December. For the next couple of months, we all rushed around to open houses and information sessions to learn about the schools that we could choose. A few of the high schools that I applied to were Townsend Harris, Benjamin N. Cardozo, and Queens Collegiate — all good schools, but still, I knew that my ranking would decide where I go to high school, which could influence my future for a long time. That decision has to be taken seriously, so my classmates and I stressed out about our rankings before submitting them.

We thought that was all we would have to do, but then in the middle of February, all the eighth-grade students in my school were called to our auditorium. We were told that the city was closing 14 high schools, and that all of us who applied to any of those schools must reapply.

I was one of the fortunate students who did not apply to one of the closing schools, but a few of my friends did. From what I saw down in that auditorium, I can say most of my friends were devastated. Some of them kept silent how they felt, but you could see on their faces how let down they were. We were given a New High School Admissions Application and basically had to re-apply to either new schools or other desired schools. To some of us, we saw past the closing down of our desired schools, we even saw past the time frame of one week to complete this application. What devastated us the most, believe it or not, was that we had to do this whole tiring, stressful process over again.

I didn’t have to submit a new application, but since I had the opportunity to, I reevaluated the choices I had made so carefully in December. My new listing changed in a way that made me focused on the progress report grades earned by the schools I wanted to go to. I went online and came up with a new list of five schools: Townsend Harris, Cardozo, Baruch College Campus High School, Queens Collegiate, and Queens Gateway. I was proud and satisfied with these final choices. I thought that the next time I would hear about my application would be when I got the letter telling me which of these schools I would attend.

Instead, just when we thought the admissions letters would be coming, we eighth graders were told bad news once again. Now it was that our main round letters were delayed because the city was being sued over the school closures that interrupted the admissions process in the first place.

I cannot begin to explain how anxious my peers and I were to receive our letters. We literally would text each other every night with the remaining days left until we would get our letters. It is only human that we eighth-graders (along with our parents) would be angry and upset with the changing circumstance.

I finally received my letter on March 30, a week late. I was shaking before and after I read that I was accepted to Queens Collegiate. I was filled with excitement and nervousness and so much more. When I told my mother she was ecstatic as well. I guess our excitement together was much more than me being accepted into Queens Collegiate; our excitement was more about the letter actually arriving and how at ease and happy we finally were.

Some say that a bit of added stress for eighth-graders was worth it to make sure that the city follows the law about closing schools. I agree, but there are limits to what and how things should be done. Before all of this turmoil occurred, if I had gone around and asked my eighth-grade peers if they knew that certain high schools would be closing down, they would have looked at me like I had four heads. I don’t think any of us eighth-graders were warned about this, and that I feel is wrong. Schools were being shut down to thousands of students, and who was around to warn us?

The debates about how the high school letters were delayed because of the lawsuit frustrated me. I thought that this situation could only really be debated among actual eighth-graders, other affected students, and their parents. I say so because back in October, we were the ones stressing about the right high schools to choose; and also, it was our parents who were visiting these high schools and their open houses with us. No one other than us can voice an accurate opinion because they did not bear what we did.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.