Canarsie High School Will Be "Phased Out" In 2008
By Neil S. Friedman
Exactly one year after the New York City Department of Education (DOE) said it would close - or phase out - South Shore and four other public high schools, it announced on Monday that Canarsie High School was slated for the same fate. The grim news came just five weeks after the secondary school on Rockaway Parkway received a grade of "F" in the first citywide schools progress reports. It was the 14th - and final one for 2007 - city school to be closed or restructured since those reports were released.
On Monday, the DOE notified the staff and parent leaders that the phase out will begin next year and the secondary school at 1600 Rockaway Parkway will not accept freshmen in the fall. However, current students will be able to complete their high school education, and, if qualified, graduate with their respective classes. According to preliminary estimates, DOE officials project that only 32.3 percent of the 2,600 students will meet graduation requirements.
Beginning next September, the school will begin reorganization as several smaller schools at the building at Rockaway Parkway and Avenue J. DOE officials said they would meet with parent leaders from the Community Education Council, as well as local elected officials, in the coming weeks to discuss future plans for the building.
News of the closing, which was not a surprise in the wake of last month's failing progress report, was, nevertheless, not welcomed by local elected officials.
Assemblyman Alan Maisel said, "I am outraged…the Department of Education made a decision that affects our children and community without having the decency to consult with parents, community leaders or elected officials. Canarsie High School has become another victim of ideological zealots."
"This is just part of the DOE's agenda," Councilman Lew Fidler told the Courier . "They never made any attempt to consult with local leaders about what could be done to change things at a failing school. The report cards and progress reports are merely implements to justify their plan."
Borough President Marty Markowitz' office issued a statement that questioned the method for Canarsie and other Brooklyn school closings. Deputy BP Yvonne Graham said, "The borough president and I are eager to learn more about how these particular schools were selected," adding, "Our office will be monitoring the (phase out) process and advocating for the transition to be seamless as possible and result in a quantifiably improved educational environment for each and every student."
When three-story Canarsie High School opened its doors on September 14, 1964, it was one of three local public schools to open that school year to meet the demands of the community's rapidly increasing population. The two other schools were Public School 276 and Isaac Bildersee Junior High School 68. Carl Cherkis, who had been principal at Junior high School 211 since 1958, was appointed the first principal of Canarsie High School, which welcomed over 1,500 students and 75 teachers.
With an optimistic outlook for the new school, Cherkis told the Courier , "We have students, teachers, administrators and the willingness to start becoming one of the best high schools in the nation…"
Plymouth Congregational Church, located on East 95th Street between Avenues J and K, had to be relocated to accommodate Canarsie High School's new athletic field.
Over the years several Canarsie High School has won several city sports championships and a few graduates have played professionally in both basketball and baseball, including Lloyd Free, Lance Shulters and Leon Williams. In 1976, the school's varsity basketball team was rated number one in the country.