JULY 2008 UPDATE: IS 168 closed in June 2007. The Robert F. Kennedy Community Middle School is now sharing the building with the Queens School of Inquiry and P255, a District 75 school for autistic children.
2003 REVIEW:Parents say teachers at JHS 168 go the extra mile for the kids, tutoring during lunch hour as well as before and after school. When an 8th grade class temporarily lost its math teacher to the Army Reserves after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, a science teacher stepped in and began to teach a weekly math course after school. Known as the performing arts school, JHS 168 students choose from talent areas such as art, chorus, dance, band, keyboarding and strings and the talent shows. The art room was jam-packed with paintings, masks, and plaster projects. Ethnic diversity couldn't be more evenly divided if they had done a lottery there are virtually equal numbers of white, black, Asian and Hispanic children in the school. Disagreements or squabbles never break down along racial lines, parents said
Most of the classrooms are set up in a traditional fashion, with desks facing front and the teacher at the head of the class. During class changes children can be boisterous and jostle one another. On the day of our visit several teachers were out at district meetings and the kids were giving the substitutes a rough time. But it all seemed more like adolescent high jinks than anything serious. The principal wields a walkie-talkie, which she doesn't hesitate to use when she sees offenses like hat wearing or gum chewing inside the building. Safety and security are her primary concerns, probably partly because the school has received somewhat of a bad rap - largely undeserved, say staff and parents -regarding discipline.
The Special Placement (SP) enrichment program is particularly strong. There are two SP classes in the 7th grade, which are sometimes whittled down to one in the 8th grade. By the 9th grade many of the top students have left the school for the specialized math and science high school Townsend Harris, or for performing arts programs elsewhere. The school shares space with a special education program for autistic children. In recent years, six children from that program were mainstreamed (with the help of para-professional clinical workers) into regular classrooms. In a first for the school, all six graduated with their 9th grade class in June 2002. A fledgling inclusion program was begun in 2001, with classes of 15 regular-education students, 10 special-education students and two teachers, both experts in the subject matter, per class. Regular education students were thrilled to be in the class because of the small class size and the teacher ratio. The school also opened a 12 to 1 self-contained special education class for children in the neighborhood who used to have to go elsewhere. (Pamela Wheaton, 2002, updated 2003)