Principal calls on community to take political action as he anticipates “devastating” budgetary cuts to Queens College program

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By the 2021 Editors of The Classic

On Monday evening, Principal Brian Condon emailed students and families announcing that he believes the NYC Department of Education plans to cut the Queens College Bridge Year Program at Townsend Harris. He urged students and parents to reach out to elected officials, saying that everyone should make it known that “defunding this long standing partnership is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”  

The Classic cannot confirm that the program’s funding will be reduced, eliminated, or even impacted at this time. In his email, Mr. Condon says he has a budgetary meeting on Wednesday with the DOE, where he expects to be given word about a budget cut or elimination involving the program. 

Within minutes of receiving the email, THHS students took to their social media platforms to raise awareness of the contents of the message and protest the possible changes Mr. Condon described. 

These students encouraged those attending THHS and other NYC high schools to share informative posts and contact officials to ensure that the program is not defunded. Students have also raised awareness through the use of the hashtag #SaveTownsendHarris2020, which has been included in posts that share a description of the QC program and ways to reach out to representatives. The THHS Student Union has used the hashtag to encourage students to take political action. In a reference to Mr. Condon’s allegation that the DOE has sought to undercut the program in the past and is now using the pandemic as “cover,” the SU’s post writes, “Do not give DOE the chance to use the pandemic as an excuse to end this phenomenal program that defines our school.”

Senior Class President Katie Hsu described a sense of “panic” she felt surrounding the news. She said she supports political action and referred to past protests against former principal Rosemarie Jahoda which, she said, “have taught the student body that they cannot remain silent when something is wrong.” 

“I think Mr. Condon’s ‘call to action’ inspired a lot of us to reach out to our elected officials and do our part in preventing the budget cut,” said rising junior Sonia Hasko. “Townsend’s history proves that student voices can and will be heard.”

Rising senior Alvin Zou said he found the announcement “quite shocking at first.” He said, “The Bridge Year Program is an integral part of our senior year experience and I commend Principal Condon’s diligence in fighting for the seniors.”

In a range of conversations with The Classic, several students said that they felt disheartened, enraged, and horrified about the prospective change. Some praised Mr. Condon for being transparent with students and parents, and others expressed concern at the stress that these decisions may bring.

The QC Bridge Year Program allows seniors to earn 12 college credits from four classes taken at Queens College. Seniors usually spend two bands a day in QC courses. Mr. Condon’s letter suggested that seniors may face holes in their programs without these courses and that his ability to reopen the building safely will be impaired if seniors are expected in the building more as a result.

Mr. Condon’s email included links to a spreadsheet with the contact information of over fifty politicians as well as a form letter for students and families to send to them. He also noted that a future town hall meeting will be held to prevent the discontinuation of the Bridge program.

This is a developing story. The Classic has reached out to the DOE and Mr. Condon for comment and will continue to report on the situation.

The following Classic editors contributed to this reporting: Ifeoluwa Adedokun, Ryan Eng, Julia Maciejak, Matthew Merino, Nikki Ng, Victoria Oei, Jasmine Palma, Micah Sandy, Samantha Sestak, Ariana Vernon, Julia Wojtkowski, Jessie Ye, Daniela Zavlun, and Nataniela Zavlun