The school was created to give high school students an opportunity to take classes at LaGuardia Community College, which is directly across the street from Middle College High School. The school targets students at risk for dropping out or otherwise underserved by traditional schools, and helps them earn a free associate's degree during a five year-program and earn a substantial amount of college credit, an amount equivalent to nearly two years of paid schooling.
The school's location, on Queens Boulevard between 32nd Place and 47th Avenue, puts it just across the street from LaGuardia, giving Middle College students the opportunity to attend classes at the college within the confines of their regular high school schedule. Now that the lease on the land is up, SCA hopes to purchase it, and the department, along with students and school faculty, is asking the community to support the purchase.
"The vision that led to Middle College High School was to create a place where high school students could enroll in college classes," said Linda Siegmund, the school's principal. "In the 21 years we have existed, we have not strayed from that vision. We believe that it is vital for us to stay in our current location."
The school, which serves 440 students, has a 91 percent attendance rate and is considered to be one of the premiere middle colleges in the United States. As one of the first high schools of its type in the nation, it has been looked to as something of an elder statesman by other school districts. And the staff has indicated that any kind of move could damage its success in the future and hinder the viability of the collaboration.
"By moving even two miles away, it would destroy the fabric of the program," said Laksmi Nor, director of School/College Collaborations with LaGuardia Community College. "The location of the school is essential."
Several Middle College students were on hand to discuss the effectiveness of the program. One student, Alejandra, who graduated in 2008, credited the school's college courses with teaching her to speak in public.
"Just by walking across the street during school hours, I am now able to speak in front of people,” she said. “I'm almost done with my associate's degree and am starting at Queens College in the fall.
A current senior, Cassandra Castillo, explained that she would be transferring to Utica College in the fall with 26 credits.
"Being located so close to the college allows students to balance social development and adult expectations," said Kim Marsh, a former student and current teacher at the school. "The opportunity these students have to get their degrees is so important."
While the students and staff at Middle College High School have been rallying in support of the school continued presence at the site, a Christopher Persheff, a representative with the SCA, said that there was little danger of the school being forced to relocate.
"We're looking to purchase the building that holds the school," he said. "We have every intention of keeping the school at its existing location.