Families fight to save United Nations International School in Queens from closing

JAMAICA ESTATES, Queens (WABC) -- Families and students are hoping their actions will help reverse a decision that's threatening to close a Queens school that was founded eight decades ago.

On a usually quiet block in Jamaica Estates, kids and their parents came ready for battle in a last-ditch effort to save their school.

"We were blindsided that this rug was suddenly pulled out from underneath us," parent Carole Maraj said.
The Queens campus of the United Nations International School (UNIS) has been educating grades K through 8 for decades.

But this month, school administrators made a sudden announcement. The campus will close at the end of the school year. Students instead will be bused an hour to the main campus in Manhattan.

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"There's enough money they can invest in the school in the short term to turn around the enrollment," parent and alumni Udai Tambar said.

It may be hard to believe money is the issue with tuition at $40,000.

But the school says enrollment at the smaller campus has dwindled for years and the campus is running nearly $2 million in the red, dragging down the finances of the entire school.

It was founded alongside the United Nations in the 1940s, primarily to educate children of people who worked there.
"We have done everything we can to reverse the downward trend," a spokesperson said in an email. "Once schools reopened following a year of online learning, we continued to see a decline in enrollment."

Parents say they never knew there was a problem and insist they could be part of a solution.

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"Put this on pause, give us three years to turn this around. We know we can do it, just give us the opportunity to do it," Maraj said.

There is exactly one more place families can turn to reverse this decision and it's at the highest levels of international government.

The secretary general of the United Nations is the person who appoints the board members who want to close the school. And so, for families, he is now their only hope.


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