J.H.S. 226 Virgil I. Grissom
QUEENS NY 11420 Map
J.H.S. 226 Virgil I. Grissom
JHS 226 is an unusually large middle school with uneven performance that has a history of issues with safety despite surveillance cameras, security guards and a reward program for positive behavior. The addition of two new schools offers JHS 226 a chance to improve safety and performance with reduced numbers of students.
Students choose one of four small learning academies, each with a different focus from Humanities Academy for Performing Arts, Discovery and Exploration, Visionaries Academy for Science and Technology, or Renaissance Academy for Broadcast Journalism.
Grant money and partnerships help expose students to special opportunities in each academy, according to the school's yearly plan. These include video teleconferencing equipment for distance-learning; a partnership with the American Globe Theater for workshops on Shakespeare; and Alvin Ailey dance classes.
Students in each academy work on projects related to the theme, and these are displayed or performed at quarterly events. Humanities students focus on music, art, poetry and drama. Broadcast journalism students create newspapers, comics or magazines using digital media. In the Visionary Academy students use science and technology in web design, robotics, air and space explorations, Power Point projects and video gaming. [photo at right of a dance performance posted by a student on YouTube]
Discovery and Exploration is a hub for 6th graders "to explore the junior high school experience through rigor, discipline, creativity, and culture," according to the school's website. An honors program called ARP, short for Advanced Regents Program, enables top students to get high school credit in math and science.
A school as large as JHS 226 has perks that are not always available at a smaller school including a concert band that plays all genres of music from Broadway to jazz to modern rock. A series of after-school clubs include drama, dance, poetry, creative writing, chorus, art and technology. Older students get a chance to take a trip to Washington D.C.
Safety, however, has been an ongoing concern. The school has appeared on a list of "persistently dangerous" schools in recent years and in 2012 a child accidentally shot pepper spray in the cafeteria, affecting about 30 students. Over half the students report physical fights are a common occurrence at the school on the Learning Environment Survey.
Principal Rushell White took the helm in 2010. She has increased the number of after-school clubs and quickly learned the names of all students and staff. She won an Eyewitness News "above and beyond" award in her first year. But test scores remain mediocre and she has come under scrutiny over testing practices at the school.
As two new schools phase in, the numbers at JHS will decline until there are about 950 students by 2017. Hawtree Creek Middle School opened in 2013, and a new high school, currently unnamed, will open with about 80 ninth-graders beginning in 2014.
Admissions: Neighborhood school (Lydie Raschka, web reports, October 2013)