Kids crossing dangerous thoroughfares for class

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Northern Boulevard, a six-lane highway that several elementery school students may need to cross to get to class.THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
Northern Boulevard, a six-lane highway that several elementery school students may need to cross to get to class.

Proposed rezoning plans might send tots trudging across a treacherous stretch.

The Department of Education (DOE) announced plans earlier this month to shift students in School District 30 to alleviate overcrowding in elementary schools in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona. Currently, the four existing elementary schools in this area — P.S. 228, P.S. 148, P.S. 149 and P.S. 127 — each serve an average of 200 students over capacity. The DOE’s initial plan involved kids crossing Astoria Boulevard, to lighten the load at P.S. 127. A revised plan sent a different group of students zoned for P.S. 148 over Northern Boulevard.

Upcoming rezoning in School District 30 is also to incorporate a new school, P.S. 329, which is set to open in Corona in 2013.

According to Jeff Guyton, co-president of Community District Education Council 30 (CDEC 30), a three-block section of residences was accidentally overlooked during planning. Those children, who under rezoning would attend P.S. 228 instead of P.S. 148, would filter into P.S. 149 after second grade. In order to get to P.S. 149, those students would need to cross Northern Boulevard.

This discovery was brought to the attention of the CDEC 30 at a public meeting several weeks ago at P.S. 127 by a member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

According to the DOE, currently eight students cross Northern Boulevard to attend school — the same number that would need to cross if the current rezoning plan goes through.

“Northern Boulevard was taken into consideration in various iterations of the plan,” said a DOE representative. “However in this proposal, we are also balancing the need to minimize the number of students crossing Astoria Boulevard.”

According to Guyton, many families want their children to continue attending P.S. 149 and do not mind crossing the busy street. Many parents, who were former students of the elementary school themselves, look forward to continuing the tradition and do not mind crossing the street with their children. Guyton also said there is a crossing guard posted at Northern and Junction Boulevard who assists pedestrians across the street.

Guyton said CDEC 30 is working in conjunction with the DOE’s Office of Portfolio Planning (OPP) to ensure children are not required to cross a busy street to get to school.

“We try to strike a balance between advocacy and cooperation,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of CDEC 30. “If we’re not collaborative and we’re not partnering, we’re not going to do the best.”

On Wednesday, September 26, the CDEC 30 met with members of the OPP to review several adjusted rezoning plans. While Guyton would not divulge the details of the plan, he assured The Courier that both groups are working together to create a plan that accommodates all students.