By Bill Biniaris
The auditorium at P.S. 122 was filled with over 600 people on March 6, 2013. Parents, teachers, students and neighbors showed up on a cold night, whose forecast called for snow, in order to voice their frustration at the recent Department of Education announcement to phase-out the gifted program at the school. Among the panelists were Costa Constantinides, an alumnus of the coveted Academy for the Intellectually Gifted, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Parents, students, teachers and residents rallied at P.S. 122.
According to the Department, they’ve decided to enforce Chancellor’s regulation A-101 after never having done so in the past. In short, this regulation mandates that any zoned K-8 school allow all students that entered the school in kindergarten to remain in the building through the terminal grade. In order to apply this logic, all students that are admitted to P.S. 122 in September of 2013 will complete their tenure there upon graduating from the eighth grade.
At this point, one might be wondering what all the fuss is about. The problem is that P.S. 122 has never been a zoned K-8 school. The building, located at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, has historically been the home of an elementary school until about 1985. At that junction, a very small yet distinct District 30 gifted program, grades 6-8, was opened which eventually grew in size and scope. The specific goal of this new program was to serve the needs of District 30’s gifted middle school students. Such a program did not exist until this one was opened. Over time, “The Academy” expanded to include a strand of gifted classes within the existing elementary school. These changes never constituted the creation of a zoned middle-school at P.S. 122. The neighborhood’s zoned middle-school was and still is I.S. 141. At this point I must add something critical to the conversation. At many schools, similar constructs have been created and staffed by an additional school administration. The cost savings, coupled with stellar academic results, which no one refutes in relation to 122, would be more than enough to characterize the 122 community as successful and innovative.