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A parent’s account of Beacon High School’s first open house

Here’s an email we just got from a parent who attended an open house — or tried to — for Beacon High School on Thursday:

Last night I waited along with many hundreds of families to attend the Open House for Beacon High School. We were told by the school to arrive sometime between 4:30 and 6:30 pm. We arrived at 5:15 to find a line extending around the corner and then three blocks along Amsterdam (some people had clearly been waiting since 3). We patiently waited for over an hour and half until we were finally ushered in along with about 200 hundred people into a small auditorium. We listened to one teacher and two students talk about the school for 10 minutes until the principal arrived – to tell us that we would not be going on a tour, not seeing the classes, not learning about activities. She said the teachers were tired and they were overwhelmed by the crowds. She said we could all come back on October 17, the open house for the other boroughs, but had nothing to say to parents who couldn’t attend that night nor did she reveal her basis for thinking the 17th won’t be just as bad. She offered to answer questions but in response to a question about the school’s drama program all she had to say was, “Well, it’s so big.” At that point, we left. I’d guess that at least 400 people were left in line and turned away at 6:45.

I know that this has been a problem with the elite schools for several years, but I guess I naively assumed they’re worked out some sort of solution.

Multiple families at last week’s citywide high school fair also told GothamSchools that they were disappointed that Beacon was poorly represented at the fair, where schools promote themselves to eager eighth-graders.

The Upper West Side school, which is slated to move into a brand-new building in 2015, is one of the most selective in the city. Last year, nearly 5,500 students applied for 300 ninth-grade spots at Beacon, according to the city’s high school directory.

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