Jack Abrams reopened as new magnet school
Children emerging from Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School Wednesday afternoon looked as happy as when they reported to class in the morning -- the first students there since 2010.
"I love the idea of this school," said Robby Harrington, 10, who is in the fifth grade. "Science and math are my specialties, so this is my type of school."
About 150 students in grades 3 through 5 are attending Jack Abrams, which the Huntington school board closed for instructional use three years ago amid controversy and worry about shootings in the area. With violence down and community support up, the board voted in March to reopen it as a specialized school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
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Superintendent James Polansky said students will use STEM principles "in real-life applications such as design engineering and service projects that will contribute to the community."
Fourth-grader Cianna Batts, 8, said she was so excited to get to school that she didn't want to eat breakfast.
"I love science and I love technology," Cianna said.
Students were selected by a lottery; about 300 had applied. District officials capped first-year enrollment at 150, with two sections in each of the three grades. The district hopes to open two sixth-grade sections in fall 2014, officials said.
Polansky, who also is serving as Jack Abrams' principal, was out front Wednesday morning to welcome students, parents, teachers and staff. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who has supported federal funding for the school, attended a first-day ceremony.
"We never give up on our schools, we never give up on our communities, we never give up on our children," Israel said. "That's why we're here today."
Philippe Augustin, 35, who lives across the street from Jack Abrams, said he isn't worried about the safety of his daughter, Dyana, 8, a third-grader.
"It sounded like a good opportunity to learn about science, technology and math," Augustin said.
Retired educator Jack Abrams, 82, for whom the school is named, was also there on opening day. He held many jobs in the district, including as principal of Jefferson Elementary School.
Violent crime in Huntington Station has been on the decline. The total number of violent crimes -- which include murder/manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- decreased from 137 in 2008 to 89 in 2012, according to data from the Suffolk County Police Department. This year, there were 44 violent crimes as of July 31, the department's data show.
Suffolk County Police Insp. Edward Brady said police are "completely backing" the reopened school.
Formerly an intermediate school for grades four through six, Jack Abrams was closed for instructional use in July 2010 after several instances of violence, including the nonfatal shooting nearby of a 16-year-old girl.
Fernando Espinoza, director of graduate education programs at the College at Old Westbury, said he has spoken with one district administrator about the STEM school.
Such schools benefit younger students by developing their ability to think critically and "directly engaging them in activities that are exploratory and investigative," said Espinoza, an associate professor of chemistry and physics.
That focus is particularly important for this age group, he said, because of studies showing that students appear to lose interest in science in grades 4-6.
"We want them to think like scientists . . . interpret data, analyze data and make decisions on it," he said.
Rae Montesano, the district's chairwoman of science and instructional technology for grades 7 through 12, was appointed the school's STEM coach and will provide instructional leadership and support for the faculty, officials said.