Dec. 6, 2021 By Christian Murray
Two Queens elected leaders are urging the NYC Schools Chancellor not to end geographic priority in the high school admissions process.
Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and State Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) sent a letter Friday to Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter in response to the Department of Education’s proposal to eliminate geographic priorities in the admissions process.
Next year, the Dept. of Education is expected to end geographical screening, which gives priority in the high school admissions process to students who live in a specific district, borough or neighborhood zone.
The change would affect many Queens high schools—such as Bayside High School, Benjamin N. Cardozo, and Francis Lewis—where seats are currently set aside for local children.
These schools are among the 27 high schools in the city that still give priority to students living in a certain zone for some seats, according to data shared by the DOE. One New York City high school, Queens Metropolitan in Forest Hills, gives all of its seats to students within its zone.
In addition, 235 high schools currently offer a borough priority. These screens would all be eliminated under the current proposal.
City officials announced in December 2020 that they planned to end all “geographic screens” for students applying to high school over the course of two years. They argue that the change makes the admissions process fairer and classrooms more diverse.
Liu, in the letter, said that ending the geographical priority for the 2022 year would be too abrupt and would lead to “chaos.” He said that children unable to attend local schools would then have to commute across the city to go elsewhere.
Critics of the change say that much of Queens is not served well by public transportation, which would be a hardship for students who would have to travel to other parts of the city.
“Limited transportation options remain an issue in Queens,” the pair wrote in the joint letter to Porter. “In the eastern portion of the borough, there is no subway access, and city buses provide lengthy commute times and often unreliable service. With over 12,000 Queens high school students already commuting to other boroughs for school, many Queens high school students report commute times of upwards of two to three hours.”
The pair also noted in the letter that many Queens schools are already overcrowded, and more seats need to be added before geographical screens are lifted.
Queens high schools, the legislators wrote, are the most crowded schools in the City of New York, currently exceeding capacity by nearly 9,000 seats. In Northeast Queens, they said, Bayside High School is operating at 134 percent, and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School at 141 percent.
The final decision as to whether or not geographical screening remains has yet to be made, according to a Dept. of Education spokesperson. A decision is likely to be announced soon.
“We are reevaluating the policy to remove high school borough and zone priorities this admission cycle based on feedback we’ve received from school communities. As always, we are putting the needs of families front and center, and we will share details soon.”
Geographical screening ended at many high schools last year.
“The geographic phase out was always a two-year proposal – year one clearly demonstrated the value in removing district priorities and following community feedback, we’re reevaluating the year two component. Last year, 48 high schools removed their district priorities,” the DOE spokesperson said.