2009-09-09 / Editorials

Start Of School Marks True New Year

The summer of 2009 will come to an official end two weeks from now on September 22, the day of the autumnal equinox when the sun is vertically above a point on the earth's equator, day and night are of equal length and autumn begins. For 1.1 million New York City schoolchildren, however, today, September 9 marks the real end of summer. The 2009-10 public school academic year started this morning.

There seems to be good reason for feeling optimistic about what is happening in New York City schools. Mayor Michael Bloomberg notes with pride that doing away with social promotion in the third, fifth, seventh and eighth grades, a practice first instituted in 2004, and providing failing students with intensive remedial help in reading and math in summer school is paying off. More than 3,000 third graders were held back because of low test scores in 2004. Four years later, the number of students held back dropped to fewer than 870. Social promotion in the remaining elementary grades will be done away with in the near future.

This is an idea with more than a little merit. Making sure that every kid in every grade in every New York City public school has made the progress required to move up to the next academic level will ultimately provide the city's business community with a workforce capable of meeting the challenges of a highly technical and complex future. This will not happen overnight, but abolishing social promotion and requiring that children can demonstrate that they have learned what was taught them—and ensuring that the teachers at the front of the classrooms possessed the ability to impart the requisite knowledge to the students in their charge is a giant step forward and a move in the right direction.

The students returning to or starting school this week will find more than an enhanced curriculum tailored to their needs. Across the city, 23 new school buildings with more than 13,000 seats will open at the start of the 2009-10 school year.

In Queens, 3,903 seats are ready for students in seven public school buildings and a new high school. The Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Long Island City and P.S. 128 in Middle Village will have space for special education students. Frank Sinatra H.S. is a new building housing school with 998 students; P.S. 128 is new construction replacing a demolished older building that will house 648 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. P.S. 49, Middle Village, P.S. 102, Elmhurst, P.S. 113, Glendale, P.S. 188, Bayside and P.S. 78, Long Island City, have a total of 1,993 seats for students in kindergarten though fifth grade. Classes in these five schools will be held in additions to existing buildings. The 204 kindergarten through fifth grade students attending P.S. 14 in Corona will move to another building; 50 prekindergarten through fifth grade students at P.S. 78 in Long Island City will attend classes in an annex to the existing school.

The new schools or annexes and additions to existing buildings, along with the 18 new buildings opened last year, represent the most new classroom seats to come on line in a two-year period since the School Construction Authority was created in 1988. This fall truly marks the start of a school year new in many ways—new buildings, new curricula, new teaching methods and new approaches to learning and teaching. We welcome all students to their schools throughout the borough, be those schools public, private or parochial. We are certain that the academic careers on which they are about to embark or are already launched will lead to lives as well educated, productive and useful citizens in a thriving city offering a workforce equipped to meet the challenges of a new and exciting future.

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