Arabic Language School Struggles To Find A Home
05/04/2007 08:15 PM
For the city's first Arabic dual-language school, it's apparently not a question of whether it will open, but where. Education officials have scrapped plans to put it inside an existing Brooklyn school, but promise to find another location. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Late Friday, The Department of Education decided Public School 282 in Park Slope will not have to make room for the city's first Arabic language school.
"Siting the Khalil Gibran International Academy at the school would be detrimental to its core academic programs," said DOE spokesman David Cantor.
But plans to open the academy this September are still in the works, which is good news for Debbie Almontaser, who proposed the school last year.
"We felt that it was really important to advocate for Arabic as a second language because it's one of the most sought out languages in the entire world,” said Almontaser. “And we wanted to provide New York City students a competitive edge, an opportunity to provide for international careers in diplomacy."
The plan for 6th through 12th graders was approved in January.
Education officials wanted the academy to be housed in Park Slope, but P.S. 282 parents said there's not enough room and their young children should not have to share the school with older students. And the criticism didn't stop there. The academy, which is named after a renowned Lebanese poet and author, as also spurred anti-Arab sentiment.
Almontaser has not only had to defend the school, but also herself. A website called Militant Islam Monitor claims she varies her headscarves trying to disguise an Islamic agenda.
"I have to say that I'm really flattered,” said Almontaser. “I’m flattered that there's so much attention being paid to me, especially about how I dress."
Earlier this week, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein had to field questions about religion being part of the curriculum.
"If any school became a religious school, as some people say Khalil Gibran would be, or it became a national school, in the sense that it really wasn't an American public school, I would shut it down,” said Klein. “I promise you that."
While religion is not part of the dual-language school, Almontaser says Arab culture, history, and contributions are.
"With any language that you learn you need to learn about the people and their customs and their history to develop effectively in that language, in order not to offend people when speaking the language,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education says it's currently looking for another site to open the Khalil Gibran International Academy.