Francis Lewis High School
QUEENS NY 11365 Map
Francis Lewis High School
One of the most popular schools in Queens, Francis Lewis is also one of the most overcrowded. It has demanding, highly selective programs in humanities and science as well as a sought-after law program and a large Junior ROTC program.
While the hallway at the main entrance accommodates the school’s more than 4,000 students quite well, the side corridors get very congested and students are barely able to move. The school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 6:55 p.m. with students attending in four sessions to reduce crowding. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited twice a day to accommodate the overlapping sessions.
The benefit of the large size is the wide array of courses offered. Students may choose from eight foreign languages. There are many Advanced Placement classes, a College Now program at nearby Queensborough Community College, and a work study program. The science program is strong, and students may present research projects at an annual symposium. There is a bilingual Chinese program for social studies, math and science. Gym electives include golf and ultimate Frisbee and there are 30 sports teams and more than 50 clubs, a Broadway show performance, an international festival and a spring instrumental concert.
A zoned neighborhood school, Francis Lewis also houses three very small, very popular programs that are open to students outside the attendance zone: the Jacob K. Javits Law Institute; the University Scholars Program (in which all students study at least two foreign languages) and the Math and Science Research program in which students study advanced mathematics and statistics.
Since 2008, students who are not in one of the small specialized programs join one of eight Small Learning Communities (SLCs): Art Institute, Sports Science, Dance, Engineering, Math, Science, International Studies or Forensics. Students select a major (their SLC) but can also “minor” in other areas by taking one class per year. This system is designed to give students a sense of a college atmosphere. Adding to that feeling is the ease with which students come and go. On the day of our visit students streamed in and out as shifts changed or they wanted to smoke a cigarette with friends. “We don’t want kids to leave, but we don’t stand at the doors to stop them either,” commented Principal Musa Ali Shama.
Classes are a blend of traditional and progressive. In one English class, students presented pop songs that related to classic literature, justifying why they felt that Michael Jackson’s “You are not Alone” best captured the feelings of Gregor Samsa, when he awoke as an insect in The Metamorphosis. However, many classes were preparing for Regents exams and in one third year honors Spanish class students filled in a worksheet while the teacher spoke to them in English.
The school is known for its JROTC program, which requires no commitment to serve in the military, has a 100 percent graduation rate and its 700 students have won several national awards. More students attend West Point than any other high school in the country, Francis Lewis officials say. JROTC “is the reason why Francis Lewis is what it is. JROTC is the backbone of the school,” said Assistant Principal Annette Palomino.
Graduates attend a variety of colleges including CUNY, SUNY and Ivy League schools, not to mention West Point. Shama emphasized that the school also tries to meet the needs of students who want to enter the workforce and plans to add technical certificates to some of the SLC programs.
Special Education: The school offers self-contained classes, Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT), a resource room and an alternate assessment program. A Late in the Day program began in 2009 for students at risk of dropping out. It begins at 12:30 p.m. and Shama says it has been successful at getting students to come to school more regularly.
Admissions: A zoned neighborhood school. Three small programs each accept 100 students a year who may live outside the attendance zone. Students are admitted to the Jacob Javitz Law Institute based on the educational option program designed to admit a mix of high and low achieving students. University Scholars and the Math and Science Research Program accept students with high standardized tests scores and good grades and attendance records. (Aryn Bloodworth, May 2011)