Tag Archives: District 30

Woodside resident to seek Assembly seat and ‘fight for the middle class’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Brian Barnwell

Brian Barnwell is looking to be the voice of a district he has called home all his life and one he says needs a big change and new leadership.

The 29-year-old Woodside resident and lawyer has announced that he will run next year for the seat in the state Assembly representing District 30, which covers the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Woodside, Middle Village and parts of Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City.

The seat is currently held by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, who was first elected in 1998.

“I just feel like it’s time for a change. I feel like we need some new energy where people are going to go out and engage the community and bring the community voices into the conversation,” Barnwell said. “Everyone is getting pushed out. The teachers are being thrown under the bus. The students are being thrown under the bus. The middle class is just being destroyed and we can’t take it for granted anymore. So I want to be the voice of the middle class, because I am in the middle class.”

Barnwell’s desire to run for office was fueled recently when he began working as the director of special events for Councilman Costa Constantinides, and experienced many residents coming into the district office complaining about various issues – including affordable housing.

This made him realize that there needed to be a change and he would be that change.

The platform of his campaign will strongly focus on helping individuals in the middle class and those vying to move into the middle class. With being a member of the middle class himself, along with his family, Barnwell said he has personal experience with the issues constituents face.

“The middle class is what made this country great. It’s what makes any country great. If you don’t have a middle class, you’re in trouble,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell’s platform – focusing on taxes, education and affordable housing – includes issues such as lowering personal income and corporate taxes; helping raise minimum wage; empowering teachers, parents and administrators in local schools and creating new curriculum based on districts; building more schools; and increasing the amount of affordable housing in the developing area.

For now, Barnwell will stay at Constantinides’ office until September, then he will hit the streets and reach out to the communities to see what issues the residents are facing.

“I want people to tell me what’s wrong with this district,” Barnwell said. “You’ve got to lead. You’ve got to be a leader. This why we elect these people to be leaders, not followers, and I want to be a leader. I don’t want to be a follower.”

Barnwell will hold his first fundraiser on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at The Brewery NYC, located at 49-18 30th Ave. in Woodside.

For more information visit Barnwell’s Facebook page or follow @Barnwell2016 on Twitter.

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Pols propose $682M education package to help alleviate overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Elected officials in the state Senate have put forth a new plan that hopes to bring some relief to the overcrowded school districts throughout the city including western Queens.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Senate Democrats announced the proposal of a $682 million investment into an education infrastructure bank. The funds would go into helping schools deal with issues surrounding physical capacity and school construction, allowing them to rebuild and renew facilities to accommodate growing populations.

Gianaris, who represents Long Island City, Astoria and parts of Woodside, said this funding could help local western Queens schools in Districts 24 and 30, two of the most overcrowded in the city.

“School overcrowding is a crisis directly affecting the lives of teachers, students and parents in western Queens every day and it must be dealt with immediately,” Gianaris said. “Our neighborhoods are growing and more needs to be done to ensure infrastructure keeps pace.”

Gianaris added that such funding would help a school like P.S./I.S. 78 in Long Island City deal with its overcrowding issues, which have left some parents fearing for the truncation of the beloved middle school classes.

“I will never stop fighting to provide our kids with the resources they deserve, and I will work to make this education infrastructure bank a reality quickly enough to solve the problems plaguing P.S./I.S. 78 and so many other schools in western Queens,” he said.

The $682 million investment, which will be funded from the state’s projected surplus and settlement funds, is also expected to provide support for teachers, fund community schools that offer holistic social service, and also begin a study to analyze the cost-effectiveness of state testing.

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Parents, students call for support to save LIC middle school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents and students in Long Island City are asking for their community to speak up to keep a beloved middle school in a neighborhood growing every day.

During Saturday’s groundbreaking of the Queens Library at Hunters Point, parents and students of P.S./I.S. 78 handed out flyers asking local residents to help speak out about the school crisis the neighborhood is going through.

According to parents, the Department of Education is considering truncating the sixth through eighth grades at the school in order to accommodate the incoming elementary aged students, after a decision was made to add two kindergarten classes to the school.

“We’re trying to get all the parents out to push it and get it in front of other people’s faces so that we can make a difference because I think, just like for the library, if we really get together and make our presence known [we can] show everyone that without schools this is really not a community,” said Nancy Mendez-Shiu, who has a daughter and son at P.S./I.S. 78. “If we don’t have enough space for children, then people are going to move away from our community.”

On the flyers, “LIC neighbors” are asked to write, call or visit any or all of their city and state elected officials and leaders such as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, District 30 leaders and local Community Board 2.

Mendez-Shiu also added that for about 10 years, parents fought for the middle school to be brought into community and in 2013 a new state-of-the-art facility at 46-08 Fifth St. was erected and became the home of P.S./I.S. 78’s third- through eighth-graders.

The school’s pre-K through second-grade classes remained at the original building located only a few blocks away at 48-09 Center Blvd.

In a meeting two weeks ago, parents were told that if all the seats are filled in the new two additional kindergarten classes then there is a possibility that grades six through eight would be truncated started in the fall of 2016.

The school would then only serve kindergarten through fifth grade, leaving older students to find another alternative.

“Our children deserve a space in our community here. They deserve to be able to go to school here,” Mendez-Shiu said. “We should make room for everyone. This is a community.”

Fellow parent Sabina Omerhodzic also said that the area is being overdeveloped with more buildings being constructed, yet there are no schools to meet the growing population of young children.

“More buildings bring more families, more children. We need to build more schools, not less. Don’t truncate, build more. That’s it. It’s very easy,” Omerhodzic said. “It’s basic math. One plus one is two. One plus one is not zero.”

The parents said the idea of middle school potentially being truncated has left students “depressed” and also wanting to protest to have their voices being heard.

Fourth graders at P.S./I.S. 78 created this Lego model to show the idea of a new building (in red) being constructed to alleviate overcrowding.

Fourth-graders at P.S./I.S. 78 created this Lego model to show the idea of a new building (in red) being constructed to alleviate overcrowding.

In one instance, a group of fourth-graders constructed a Lego model of the school and added a new building that could be constructed to help alleviate the overcrowding and also accommodate middle-schoolers. The model also included an organic garden on the rooftop of the new building.

“I feel bad because we love P.S./I.S. 78, that’s why we are protesting and helping it, and just making us move to another school isn’t fair for us,” said fifth-grader Monica Malas, who after spending two days being sad over the news got together with classmates to protest. “I hope we can actually succeed and let the small ones go to the sixth through eighth grade.”

The DOE did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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BP secures $250K for new pre-K program at Queens Library in Ravenswood Houses


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of BP Melinda Katz's office

More than 30 seats are being added to School District 30, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz secured funding for a new pre-K program at a Queens Library branch at one Astoria housing development.

Katz announced Tuesday she will be allocating discretionary capital funding to create a new, free, full-day pre-K program at the Ravenswood library located within the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses at 35-32 21st St.

This new program will add 36 seats to District 30, which is known for being overcrowded and having one of the largest pre-K seat shortages in the borough for the upcoming school year. The Ravenswood site was approved last year by the Department of Buildings to operate a pre-K program.

“Addressing the pre-K seat shortage for the upcoming school year has been a priority, especially in Districts 30 and 24,” Katz said. “The Queens Library has taken one of the more creative initiatives we’ve seen to launch pre-K programs at our beloved libraries throughout the borough. Our libraries are treasured, safe community hubs for enrichment and lifelong learning, and starting the educational pathway from pre-K here is a natural fit.”

The cost to modify the Ravenswood library into the new pre-K program is estimated at $572,000, according to the Department of Design and Construction. An initial $250,000 was committed by the Shoolman Foundation, as well as $72,000 from the Department of Education.

Katz will be securing the remaining $250,000 allowing the program to become a reality.

“This funding is great news for the Ravenswood community and for the children of western Queens,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “We know that pre-K makes a huge difference in the lives of our young students and I am glad that we are adding space in an area that so desperately needs more school seats.”

The Ravenswood library’s entire space will be used to run the pre-K program from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. During non-school hours, the library will be used as a Family Literacy Learning Center, offering ESL courses and other classes for adults.

“The Ravenswood library is a prime location to house and expand our city’s already successful universal pre-kindergarten program,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “With the addition of two UPK classes we can provide more children a head start in getting the education they rightfully deserve.”

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Schools Chancellor discusses District 30 issues, ‘renewal schools’ plan


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Parents and educators made their voices heard during a town hall meeting for District 30 where topics such as school overcrowding, testing and the start of a renewal program for schools were discussed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined parents and members of the Community District Education Council 30 on Thursday night in Long Island City for a town hall meeting discussing issues and concerns arising in District 30.

Among the topics brought up by audience members — who were asked to write out questions on postcards that CEC 30 members read — included recent school testing, more parent engagement, overcrowding at local schools and the need for mandatory recess.

When answering questions on concerns over recent testing, which has been under criticism for being used mostly to evaluate teachers, Fariña said that the DOE is working to run things more smoothly. She believes that the tests should make up only 30 percent of the teachers’ evaluation, and the rest of the evaluation should be left to the school principals.

However, Fariña added that she does not believe opting out of the state tests is the answer.

“I want to be clear that I do believe in testing. I believe our kids are challenged every day of their lives in different ways,” she said. “As long as I have been with testing, no matter what you call the test, there’s always some stress, there’s always some fear.”

Fariña also brought up the idea of creating diagnostic tests, where students would take one test at the start of the school year and then another at the end of the year in order to evaluate progression.

In regards to parent engagement, Fariña said she wants to increase involvement of parents and guardians. She said she would like more days for parent-teacher conferences, workshops for parents, and even recommended parents start book clubs to not only create relationships but also get an idea of what books their children are assigned to read.

She also added that one of the priorities is to create more programs aimed to parents and children whose first language is not English.

“We’re working on many different levels and we’re trying to make it better for all parents to access all our schools,” Fariña said.

Among other topics discussed during the meeting was the plan to create what the chancellor called “renewal schools.”

Through this model, schools that are struggling, such as Long Island City’s P.S. 111, would become “renewed.” This means that the school day would be extended to at least 5 p.m., the school would offer extra programs with after-school programs also open to parents, health services, academic support, and some form of enrichment activities such as an arts program or physical education.

“Our job is to help struggling schools. Our job is not to close them. Our job is not assume that they have to struggle forever or be failing schools forever, and we’ve gone into the renewal school model with that fully in place,” the schools chancellor said.

At these schools there will also be renewal directors, who will work with principals to provide more support and guidance. The directors will also observe and evaluate teachers at these specific schools to make sure they are a right fit for the site.

“We need to do a wraparound service around these schools so that all the needs are met,” Fariña said. “You can say a school is only about education, but the reality is that it’s a lot more than that. They need to be community hubs. They need to be places where, to the most degree possible, we do everything we can and bar no efforts to get this done.”

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Sunnyside and Woodside parents petition for a new middle school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of Sunnyside Woodside MSP

A group of parents from Sunnyside and Woodside have started a petition calling on city and school officials to bring a new middle school into District 30, which is known for its overcrowded schools.

Debra McGowan, a parent of a first-grader at P.S. 11 in Woodside, presented the petition during a “State of Our Schools Town Hall” meeting on Tuesday organized by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the state Assembly Education Committee.

The petition, started on Feb. 12, comes after the parents starting calling on the School Construction Authority and Department of Education last year for a new middle school in the area which serves elementary schools P.S. 150, P.S 11 and P.S. 339, slated to open in the fall.

McGowan said since last year, parents have come up with potential sites and have presented it to the SCA. However on Feb. 6, the parents were told by the agencies that according to the latest census there are not enough children in the area to justify a new middle school.

“The children in [District] 30 are zoned to I.S. 125, which is in technically [District] 24, but there are 1,700 children in that middle school and that is a thousand too many,” Nolan said. “So to suggest that situation should continue is ridiculous, to say there are not enough kids, when there are going to be more.”

Along with having to attend middle schools that are overcrowded, McGowan added that students from Sunnyside and Woodside have to cross dangerous thoroughfares such as Queens and Northern boulevards to get to their designated middle schools.

McGowan said she is trying to get as many signatures as possible by the end of the month and will present the petitions at the next Panel for Educational Policy meeting scheduled for Feb. 25. She added that the goal is to not miss out on the 2015-2019 capital plan, which would look to build three middle schools in Queens.

“We’re here and I need signatures to prove that we’re here,” McGowan said. “I feel that we need to let them know that we need to build a school in the area.”

More information about the petition can be found on the Sunnyside Woodside MSP Facebook page

The DOE did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Along with the petition, during the town hall meeting, Nolan and education advocates described how the state owes the city school system $5.9 billion as a result of underfunding, and they criticized Governor Cuomo’s education agenda. 

Some of the issues voiced by those present at the meeting included problems with the emphasis on high stakes standardized tests, lack of funding for arts and music, and asking to keep the current cap on the number of charter schools in the city. 

Representatives from the coalition Alliance for Quality Education, which calls for quality education for city schools, plan to march and lobby for public education in Albany on March 11 and have started using the hashtag #wecantwait to gather supporters. 

“There may be some bad things happening but we do have a chance to make some good things happen,” Nolan said. 

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Jackson Heights middle school to welcome more space for students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Students at one Jackson Heights middle school are getting more room to learn.

Local elected officials, Department of Education (DOE) and School Construction Authority (SCA) representatives, and members of the I.S. 230 community will come together Thursday morning to cut the ribbon on the middle school’s new annex.

Located across the street from the middle school on 34th Avenue and 74th Street, the new building has classrooms, science labs, an art studio, a library with computers, bathrooms on every floor, an exercise room and a cafeteria.

“This new annex will help alleviate overcrowding at the main I.S. 230 middle school building,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “In addition to providing much-needed space, the building provides rooms for science labs, the arts and exercise. These rooms are essential to a well-rounded education.”

I.S. 230 is located in School District 30, which is one of the city’s most overcrowded school districts, according to officials.

I.S. 230

I.S. 230

The SCA also purchased two lots on 74th Street which will be used as outdoor play and exercise areas, according to Dromm.

“I want to thank the DOE and the SCA for making this building so beautiful and functional,” Dromm said. “It will go a long way to improving education in our district.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the annex will take place Thursday at 9 a.m. at 74th Street and 34th Avenue.

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Incumbent Elizabeth Crowley comes out on top after tough challenge


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley will return to the City Council after overcoming a stiff challenge from candidate Craig Caruana.

The councilmember celebrated the win with supporters and family members at her victory party at Woodhaven House in Middle Village, after the race initially seemed close.

“This has been a long campaign, but the people of the 30th council district have spoken tonight,” Crowley said, “and guess what? They want to send me back to city hall.”

Crowley won nearly 59 percent of the vote, according to early polling numbers, while Caruana took about 41 percent, a gap of approximately 3,000 votes.

Crowley has served District 30, which encompasses Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood and parts of Woodhaven and Woodside for nearly four years, tackling issues from education, traffic and preventing firehouse closures.

The race against Caruana was initially one sided in the incumbent’s favor, but following an endorsement from mayoral candidate Joe Lhota and a feisty debate, Caruana, a political newbie, gained some traction.

“[Caruana] ran a good campaign,” Crowley said. “ I think that when you have a challenge it makes you work harder.”

Early results from polling sites showed Crowley only leading by about five percent, but that number gradually started to expand. Now with the election behind her she plans to get back on track with key issues.

“I want to improve transportation,” Crowley said. “Queens is growing and so is the 30th council district.”

Caruana, who was confident he could unseat Crowley, conceded and talked to his supporters at Collony’s Corner in Maspeth.

“There are serious losses that you take in life and this isn’t one of them,” he said. “If you expend yourself in fighting for something that you really believe in and you expend yourself sometimes in struggle, especially what you put your heart into, you can’t lose.”

 

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Department of Education: Gifted and talented classes will stay


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The Department of Education (DOE) has decided to withdraw its controversial plan to cut the gifted and talented classes at P.S. 122. after last week’s meeting with concerned parents, teachers and elected officials from across School District 30.

“We’ve listened, and we know what an exceptional job P.S. 122 is doing with its G&T middle school students,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “We’re going to take more time to think through the challenge, consider ways to ensure equity and excellence for all families, and re-engage with the community in the future.”

Since the announcement of the plan in February, members of District 30 and local officials have protested against the idea to reduce the classes at The Academy, a prestigious middle school gifted and talented program, in order to expand

P.S. 122’s general education classes from fifth to eighth grade.

“I am thrilled that the exemplary academic program at P.S. 122 will be preserved moving forward,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “P.S. 122 is a gem in our community that should be allowed to continue improving the lives of the children and parents of Astoria for years to come.”

Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent who now sees a brighter future for her son and daughter, is excited to work with the DOE and discuss any upcoming proposed changes.

“It was truly amazing to see people from every corner of District 30 to come together for a common cause and it worked and it gives me a lot of hope going forward,” said Alexander.

Alexander hopes their victory will give hope to other communities going through similar circumstances and who might feel like they are in a David and Goliath situation.

“Sometimes David does win,” said Alexander.

 

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Schools Chancellor Walcott meets with parents over gifted and talented cuts


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ana Musmat Alam

True to his word, Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis Walcott met with parents, teachers and elected officials from across School District 30 to talk about the proposed cuts to the prestigious gifted and talented program at P.S. 122.

“When families have a great experience in their school, we celebrate that and we appreciate the thoughtful way that parents at P.S. 122 approached this proposal,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.

The meeting came after the concerned and outraged community members confronted Walcott at a Panel for Education Policy in Brooklyn on March 20, where he agreed to meet with them at a later date.

For over a month, the members have been getting together to speak out against the DOE’s plans to extend P.S. 122’s general education classes from fifth to eighth grade at the expense of fewer classes for the gifted and talented middle school program, The Academy.

“We are feeling optimistic that the DOE has heard that the District 30 community has not asked for and does not want a change to our balances and harmonious district structure,” said Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent. “At the end of it, we feel like we could not have laid our case out any better. Logic should dictate what they do now.”

According to Alexander, although Walcott did not say much at the meeting, he was apologetic in not contacting the community earlier, applauded the community’s advocacy and said he would get back to them within a week with some answers.

“The Chancellor listens – he did that at his meeting with P.S. 122 parents, as he does with school communities across the city. We will incorporate the feedback we received, and will ultimately make a decision that best balances equity and excellence for students in this district,” said Puglia.

Alexander hopes a decision will be made by April 17, when parents have to submit their ranking for gifted and talented schools for their children.

“Fix the rule, don’t fix the school,” said Alexander.

 

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Schools Chancellor Walcott to meet with parents over gifted and talented cuts


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Isaac Carmignani

After weeks protesting proposed cuts to the gifted and talented program at P.S. 122, the voices of the parents in District 30 have finally been heard by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The parents, along with other concerned and outraged school and community members, confronted Walcott at a Panel for Education Policy meeting in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, March 20, where the chancellor agreed to meet with them at a later date to go over the changes.

“We are feeling cautiously optimistic, given the chancellor’s previous thoughtful interactions with parents from District 30,” said Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent whose son, Augustus, is set to attend the prestigious program in middle school. “A united community can really make a change.”

The group of District 30 parents has been getting together for over a month to speak against the Department of Education’s (DOE) plans to extend P.S. 122’s general education classes from the fifth to eighth grade, cutting down classes at the gifted and talented middle school program, The Academy.

“It’s just the first step, but we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished and thrilled that the chancellor listened and heard us,” said Alexander.

In order to extend P.S. 122 into the eighth grade, by 2019 there will be room for only one class per grade in The Academy, down from the three to four classes offered now. These changes would go into effect in 2019 and would begin with this fall’s incoming kindergarten class.

The DOE has stated that the changes are required in order to allow each student the chance to stay in the same K-8 until they finish middle school.

The meeting between parents and the chancellor was confirmed by DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia, yet no date has been set.

“Chancellor Walcott and his team are very responsive and listen closely to feedback from families. We look forward to meeting with this community once again and articulating our rationale for this plan: equity and fairness for all students,” said Puglia in a statement.

Yet, worried the meeting will not bring negotiations, as the parents wait for the date to be announced they will be filing a petition with the State Education Commissioner.

“The day we can withdraw that petition because the DOE has heard the unified voice of District 30 will be a joyful day,” said Alexander.

 

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New schools to ease overcrowding in western Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of SCA

Two new schools will help alleviate overcrowding in Jackson Heights and Corona in the next two years, according to the School Construction Authority (SCA).

The first school, P.S. 287, is scheduled to debut this September at 110-08 Northern Boulevard in Corona. Located in District 24, the four-story building will serve pre-K through fifth grade and have a 420 student capacity, said the SCA.

I.S. 297 will be completed by September 2014 at 33-55 74th Street in Jackson Heights as part of District 30. The school is expected to have four floors, serve sixth through eighth grade and have a 400 student capacity.

“These two new schools, together with the ground we broke on the addition to P.S. 70, will go a long way towards easing overcrowding in western Queens schools. But, there is still more work to be done,” said Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr.

District 30 has been in need of more schools to keep up with a growing population, school leaders said.

“The more crowded it is, the harder it is to get things done, even with parents picking their kids up,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of the District 30 Community Education Council. “Anytime we get seats, anytime we get schools, it’s good for us. We’re grateful for anything that we are given.”

Overcrowding has also been a problem in District 24 as school construction failed to keep up with the growing population of families, especially new immigrants looking to make the neighborhoods in the district their home, according to InsideSchools.org.

“I have been in constant contact with the Department of Education to ensure that a comprehensive plan is established to address the overcrowding in my district,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras.

Last March, the department announced it would add 6,000 new school seats over the next two years in order to ease overcrowding in the borough.

According to the SCA, along with the brand-new school buildings, P.S. 287 will have two playgrounds at the back of the school. I.S. 297’s playground will be located on land purchased by the city across the street from the school.

 

I.S. 297 rendering 

 

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PCB leak in LIC school scares staff, parents


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_2315w

A mysterious liquid dripping from a light fixture at a Long Island City middle school alarmed staff and faculty members who discovered the substance was the potentially toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

The head custodian at I.S. 204 spotted the brown fluid trickling off a fixture in a guidance counselor’s office around 2:45 p.m. on Monday, September 10. The room was promptly sealed and a worker from Triumvirate Environmental, a Department of Education (DOE) contracted company, was dispatched to the facility.

According to Jeff Guyton, co-president of Community Education Council District 30, no students were in the area of the leak and because it was discovered early in the school year, students most likely had yet to meet with a guidance counselor in that room.

Previously used as coolant in electrical transformers and certain lighting fixtures, PCB was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1979. It may still be present in commonly used products, such as flourescent light ballasts, manufactured before the ban.

The DOE recently entered the second year of its decade-long plan to remove and replace all lighting fixtures throughout the city’s 700 school buildings. According to a spokesperson from the DOE, all schools have lighting fixtures with PCB ballasts. The representative said the agency’s plan is “unprecedented compared to other cities,” adding that PCB-infused fixtures are a nationwide issue.

The 10-year plan includes comprehensive energy audits and retrofits, replacing the dangerous fixtures with energy-efficient, PCB-free lights.

“We as a council want to make sure that we’re bumped up dramatically on the priority list,” said Guyton. “If there’s one that’s faulty, that means they’re at the end of their useful life. If one is corroded that means others are too.”

According to the DOE, confirmed leaks are investigated within 48 hours of discovery.

“Everyone needs to work as if their own child is in that school,” Guyton said. “I would be very upset if my kid was in that school — I would be livid. Everyone including the chancellor and construction agency needs to work with that urgency.”

The principal of I.S. 204 could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Rezoning would help class size in District 30


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The Department of Education (DOE) is “zoning in” on overcrowding.

The DOE is rezoning School District 30, expanding the capacity of local elementary schools to alleviate severe overcrowding. The extension will incorporate Q329, a new K-5 elementary school, set to open with three kindergarten sections in September 2013.

The new school, located at 26-25 97th Street in East Elmhurst, will serve elementary school students residing in the East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights areas of the district.

The updated school district, carved from a portion of P.S./I.S. 127’s current zone, will also impact P.S. 228, P.S. 149 and P.S. 148. According to the DOE, the four schools impacted by rezoning are an average of 200 kids over capacity.

No schools will be removed from the district and only incoming kindergartners and students new to the school system will be moed into a different school, according to the DOE.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras believes rezoning is a major step in providing area children the education they deserve, which doesn’t involve 10 a.m. lunch times and classes taught in overflowing rooms.

“How do we move forward when our classrooms are beyond what any teachers is asked to teach safely in,” asked Ferreras. “I’m very excited and looking forward to see the groundbreaking for the four new schools that are going to be built in the area. Changing the lines ever so slightly makes a huge impact for so many families.”

If approved by the Community Education Council (CEC), the rezoning would be implemented during the 2013-2014 school year.

More middle school seats coming to Jackson Heights


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Alex Florez

Students corralled in overcrowded classrooms may soon be able to stretch their legs while exercising their minds.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Borough President Helen Marshall celebrated breaking ground on I.S. 297Q — a new middle school, expected to open in the fall of 2014 in Jackson Heights — at a ceremony on Tuesday, August 7.

The school, which will house sixth through eighth grades, will add 400 seats to District 30 in an effort to alleviate severe crowding. The new four-story building will boast central air, 12 standard classrooms and administration offices, as well as a special education building and specialized accommodations for science, music, art and physical education courses.

Dromm, a former public school teacher for more than 25 years, emphasized the demand for adequately sized classes.

“Smaller class sizes allow teachers to cater to individual student needs,” said Dromm. “I.S. 297 and other new schools are a necessary investment in the future of our students and I will continue fighting to see more neighborhood schools in Jackson Heights.”

According to a spokesperson from Dromm’s office, 1,350 seats were added to district schools, including 600 elementary positions, when P.S. 280 opened in 2010. An additional 350 seats were created when a new wing was added to P.S. 13 in LeFrak City.

“We are thrilled with the additional classrooms because our middle schools are very overcrowded at this point in time,” said Jackson Heights Beautification Group President Ed Westley. “We need more but this is a welcomed start.”