New HS Lacking In Local Students
By Joseph Orovic
Not even a full semester has passed, and Forest Hills’ Metropolitan Avenue Campus has garnered a touch of negative attention.
Neighborhood leaders are concerned over enrollment numbers at the $158 million education facility’s high school, which they say do not meet promises that at least half of the kids would be from Forest Hills.
The locally-zoned school’s first 250-freshmen class was originally slated to be split evenly between kids from Districts 24 and 28. But according to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), a lack of outreach and apprehension has left the school’s first class with a glut of Glendale students, while Forest Hills kids make up less than half of the overall student body.
“I was disappointed in the amount of kids that came from Forest Hills,” Koslowitz said. “It was supposed to be 125-125. It wasn’t like that at all.”
The Dept. of Education did not respond to requests for comment and Koslowitz said they refuse to provide exact figures about the class’s makeup.
The school’s freshman class is also significantly higher than the originally planned 250. After murmurs about empty seats in the school’s newly-constructed building, the DOE bumped up enrollment, eventually expanding it for local kids and, according to some, kids across the entire borough. According to Koslowitz, the additional students increased the school’s pioneer class to close to 400 – a figure the DOE was not available to confirm.
Koslowitz said a large chunk of potential Forest Hills students were instead slotted for other local schools due to an application snafu. Kids and parents were given the option of ranking their preferred high schools, and Koslowitz believes many students and parents opted to put the Metro Campus second.
“It didn’t look like the school was going to be ready,” Koslowitz said, referring to the school’s “under construction” aura as students were considering their options.
Koslowitz spoke with DOE reps and requested more open houses, while she hopes to build a groundswell of information through her Parent Advisory Counsel. She also asked the DOE consider giving applicants the option of the Metropolitan Campus High School though it may be their second choice.
“I told them I’m unhappy with the outreach that was done,” she said. “I don’t know how much the word got out before.”
According to Forest Hills Civic Association head Barbara Stuchinski, there was a community-wide failure to spread the word, though she specifically blames District 28’s Community Education Council for not quelling any apprehension towards enrolling into a new – and largely unproven – program.
“They’re not dynamic; they’re very passive,” she said. “Parents who were able to start the process weren’t given sufficient information and they gave up.”
Local leaders have set their sights on the next round of students, who have a Dec. 3 deadline to submit their applications.
The school, which spent nearly two decades as a mere concept and promise, came to fruition this year. Past council members, including Melinda Katz, fought to have the school locally zoned in an effort to ease overcrowding at perpetually-busy Forest Hills High School.
But some fear a continuation of last year’s figures will lead to more students from all around the borough – a fear with proprietary and not xenophobic roots.
“Why shouldn’t we have the benefit of the new school?” Koslowitz asked. “That was the intention in 1993, when I first brought that site up. We have the traffic, we have everything else.”
Reach Reporter Joseph Orovic at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.