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Quincy's High's ninth-grade English learners program moving to North Quincy

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 22, 2011 05:14 PM

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Quincy High School will move the ninth grade English Language Learners program to North Quincy High School next school year, a transition that has some within the program claiming discrimination.

The change result from lack of capacity at Quincy High, where parents and students have been eager to take advantage of the newly remodeled building.

According to Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro, administrators have not decided on any permanent arrangements, but are merely trying to deal with capacity issues for the upcoming year.

“This is a year of transition,” DeCristofaro said. “Let's see where we go at Quincy High … We didn’t want to disrupt kids going into grade 10 or 11, or 12. They were at Quincy High before, we wanted to keep there. So we figured to do this for one year, to see if this is what we want long-term.”

Grades 10, 11, and 12 will remain at Quincy High for the 2011-2012 school year. School administrators will reassess to see if the next incoming ninth grade will also go to North Quincy.

Among the options would be having all ELL students moved to North Quincy. Alternatively, all ELL students might be brought back to Quincy High.

The vagueness is due to the open enrollment policy at Quincy's high schools. According to city policy, incoming and existing students can freely move between buildings at the start of the school year, regardless of where their home is located in the city.

Program needs, however, are relegated to specific schools depending on staffing and space.

“Consistency for every student is what we strive for, but when we have no choice but to change, you think of ways to shift programs,” DeCristofaro said. “If the enrollment shifts, you have no choice to take a look and see how do you keep these programs as good as they are, give every child in the school system the best service, and service the enrollment in the school.”

Currently, there is no ELL program at North Quincy High. To move the program, three of the eight ELL teachers would also transfer to North Quincy High, along with 30 or so freshman ELL students.

Although administrators say the program shift was unavoidable, one student within the ELL program is speaking out.

According to Huang Hong, a Quincy High sophomore who goes by the English name William Henrich, the move is unacceptable.

Not only is Quincy High better prepared to handle ELL students, the North Quincy school lacks many programs ELL students may be interested in taking, such as a workshop.

What’s worse, Henrich said, the families and students were never asked about this decision.

“They didn’t let our parents get involved,'' he said. "They said there were too many people this year, so they are just going to send the students to North Quincy High."

Although any ELL students enrolled in QHS this year will still be there next year, it’s the trend Henrich is afraid of.

“Most students have the same feeling as I do. It’s unfair, but they didn’t know the way to fight back. Even their family is concerned, but they cannot do anything. There are a lot of people who feel like this,” he said. “It is unfair and I can [say] it’s discrimination to immigrants, [their] family, and [the] students.”

Yet according to School Committee Vice-Chairwoman Anne Mahoney, the program shift resulted solely from the size of the program and the size of the building.

“We try to be the least disruptive we can,” Mahoney said. “Ultimately, somebody is not going to be happy. But it’s about making sure we can offer and handle the program. It’s a need we have to do.”

According to DeCristofaro, the choice to move part of the ELL program, rather than other programs, was the only option. ROTC is only located at North Quincy High, and a shift of the special education programs was not possible at this time.

Certain vocational programs are also unable to be moved, as they are taught in specific areas of Quincy High.

“I absolutely don’t agree with any feelings that we would not give our due diligence and high quality to any student in the Quincy Public School,” DeCristofaro said. “I understand it, the change is very difficult, but I also understand when you look at a larger picture that there are constant shifts.”

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