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Polish Students in Queens Could Lose High School

March 21, 2012 3:03 pm Leave a comment By  | Via  
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Krysytna Levy teaches Polish and ESL at Grover Cleveland High School and is one of a few Polish-speaking teachers. (Photo by Ewa Kern-Jędrychowska/Nowy Dziennik)

The Polish newspaper Nowy Dziennik reported on another potential school closing in the city, this time a school in Queens with many Polish and other immigrant students. The Polish paper’s story is translated below.

The City Department of Education has announced plans to close Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood after the end of the school year. The school educates some 100 Polish students.

Plans to close down the school will come to a vote on April 26. If the motion passes, Grover Cleveland would shut down after the end of the current school year. When the next academic year begins, a new school would open in its place. All students would have a guaranteed spot in the new school. However, the fate of the teachers would be unknown.

“Each day we are told a different story,” said Regina Dominiquez, an assistant principal in the department of foreign languages and ESL. “We need all the support we can get.”

Grover Cleveland has a sizable group of students from Polish families – the number currently comes to around 100, but in the past, it would at times reach 400.

“Due to changes in immigration trends, we have fewer Polish students, but still quite a number of them,” said Krysytna Levy, who teaches Polish and ESL and is one of a couple of Polish-speaking teachers.

Until last year, the school offered lessons in Polish, but this year, owing to budget cuts, the program was eliminated. Nevertheless, the school still offers help in preparing for the Polish Regents Exam.

“We have heard that all teachers will be fired and will have to apply for jobs again,” said Levy, who has worked at the school since 1994.

Grover Cleveland is one of many New York schools that have been placed on the school closing list by the Bloomberg administration. Schools are being closed because of poor student performance, which the mayor has blamed on teachers.

The Ridgewood school has made it to the list because its graduation rate is 58 percent, which places it among the city’s lowest 20 percent of schools.

Krystyna Levy says that the low graduation rate comes from the fact that most of the 2,000 students at Grover Cleveland High School are immigrants (a quarter of all students attend ESL classes, but teachers said that immigrant students constitute more than that portion of the school’s population).

“When they first come to our school, their English is often poor, as they have just come to the country,” she said. “These students simply need more time to catch up.” Levy added that after registering at the school, immigrant students take tests in English which determine their placement in one of the nine levels of English.

“This school has existed since the 1930s, so it has a long tradition, not to mention a good connection between students and teachers,” Levy said. “This could all go to waste.”

For more information from the DOE, including documents concerning the proposed closure of Grover Cleveland High School, visit their page of proposed closings and scroll down to the section for Queens.

A Department of Education public hearing on the plan to close the school will be held at Grover Cleveland High School, located at 21-27 Himrod Street in Ridgewood, on April 2 at 6 p.m. Those who plan to testify need to register beforehand, and registration begins half an hour before the hearing.

Opinions regarding the closure of Grover Cleveland High School can also be expressed at 212-374-7621 or D24Proposals@schools.nyc.gov (Contact: Elaine Gorman)

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