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Astoria Schools Welcome Students Back

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 6, 2012 2:16pm

ASTORIA — It seemed like a regular first day of school at Bryant High School in Astoria — students heading back to classrooms waved to their friends, hugged one another and exchanged tales about  their summers.

But unlike other schools in the neighborhood where students were happy to see each other after summer break, at Bryant there was also a feeling of relief. That school was among 24 struggling institutions slated for closure — was allowed to re-open under its name and keep its teachers.

“Last year was very stressful,” said Patricia Oliveira, 18, a student at the school. “It feels really weird."

She added that she was happy the school was able to keep its name “but a lot of things have changed. We have a different schedule now and there are some new teachers.”

The school's uncertain future took a toll on the staff as well.

“It was a big trouble for everybody,” said Linda Lefton, 58, who has worked as a school counselor at Bryant for 10 years. “Now, the biggest challenge is not to let the outside stuff affect our students’ success.”

The schools were allowed to remain open after a court ruled last June that the city's decision to close them and reopen under different names broke the union contract.

Some parents seemed optimistic. “We just moved to this neighborhood from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and this school is close to our house,” said one father, who introduced himself as Pete, and said it was his 15-year old daughter’s first day. “We heard about this school’s problems last year but we also heard that many improvements have already been implemented since then.”

Across the neighborhood's schools spirits ran high as students reconnected with peers.

“I’m really happy to see my friends,” said Gladys Hernandez, 12, on her way to I.S. 10 on 31st Avenue.  “This year, I want to get better grades and focus on my homework, too.”

Jeremy Koursaris, 5, who attends P.S. 70 on 42nd Street said he was "super excited." “I love school. You get to learn new stuff,” he said. Of all his subjects, gym was his favorite.

Anamta Khondkir, 4, started Pre-K there.  “We've just met her teacher," said Mustakin Khondkir, her father. Anamta "is very happy," he said.