JACKSON HEIGHTS — This rezoning presentation was lost in translation.
Parents who attended a recent middle school rezoning meeting say they were left confused after the Department of Education gave a presentation on the plan without having enough translated materials for the massive crowd on hand.
The auditorium at I.S 145 in Jackson Heights was packed with hundreds during Monday evening's meeting, but only one box of translation headphones for parents who speak either Spanish or Bengali were available.
And the PowerPoint presentation, including a map of the new zones for I.S. 145 and I.S. 230, was only available in English. Officials also didn't have enough for all of those in attendance and asked parents to share with each other.
Presenters from the DOE relied on parents and Councilman Danny Dromm, who speaks Spanish fluently, to explain the process to the parents of students at P.S. 69, P.S. 149 and P.S. 222, who packed the auditorium.
Translation at the meetings is the responsibilty of the Community Education Council.
"They were confusing, totally," said Ghansyam Patel, who speaks fluent Bengali and came to the meeting to see how the plan will impact his 10-year-old son, Bhavin.
"They didn't tell us properly."
Under the proposed changes, which would take effect next September, the boundaries for I.S. 230 would expand by about 10 blocks along Roosevelt Avenue, from 83rd Street to 92nd Street.
The new territory, which would shrink the zone for I.S. 145, would be served by an annex for I.S. 230 that is under construction in the neighborhood.
In addition to the lack of translation services, some parents were concerned about the middle schools having different programming.
Maria Flores, 16, translated the presentation for mother, Maximina, who came to see how the new zone will impact her 10-year-old son Edgar.
"I don't think it's right for people to be changing schools," Maria said. "It's going to take longer."
Flores graduated from I.S. 145, but now her younger brother will be zoned for I.S. 230, she said.
Her previous school features a bilingual program that combines ELA students with students who wish to improve their Spanish, and instruction is offered in both languages throughout the week.
A spokesman for the DOE said the agency is working with the superintendent and the principal of I.S 230 to possibly bring a dual language program to that school, similar to the one at I.S 145.
The spokesman also said the DOE didn't expect so many people to attend Monday's meeting, which accounted for the low number of translation headphones.
"The meeting was organized by the [Community Education Council] and we worked with them to provide interpretation equipment based on the number of people they expected at the meeting. We did our best to ensure interpretation services for every family, but because of the high turnout we recognize that there should have more interpretation equipment," the spokesman said.
"Moving forward we will continue to work closely with the CEC to make sure that we are listening to the needs of the community in providing translation services.”
Jeffrey Guyton, a co-president of CEC 30, admitted that the large turnout took him by surprise, and promised to do better for upcoming meetings.
The proposal will ultimately help neighborhood schools, he said, but the initial change will take a while for parents to accept.
"We're bringing new schools, new seats, new teachers and opportunities — but we're also bringing change, and that is hard," he said.
Councilman Dromm said the lack of translated literature has been a problem at education meetings for years.
"It's been a point that I have been raising on many occasions to the DOE," he said. "It's still a battle with the DOE to bring translated materials and to have proper translation to the parents."