Tag Archives: overcrowding

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.


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.


Parents call for permanent annex at Corona’s P.S. 143 to alleviate overcrowding

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents at one Corona school are saying enough is enough and are calling on officials to give their children more room to succeed.

Over a hundred parents and children gathered on Tuesday morning with state Senator Jose Peralta outside of P.S. 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School, located at 34-74 113th St., to propose the building of a permanent addition to the school to help alleviate the chronic overcrowding.

According to Peralta, the Corona elementary school was originally built to accommodate 900 students, yet currently there are about 1,800 students enrolled at the site. This causes some children to have lunch at 9:50 a.m. and a large number of students have to take their classes outside of the school’s building.

The new annex would replace a mini building and six temporary classroom units, also known as trailers, which are found on the side of the school’s original building. Some students have also been moved to an annex located at 98th Street and 38th Avenue. 

“We need to have real classrooms for our children. A trailer is no place for a kid to be learning and that’s something that we’ve been saying time and time again to the administration,” Peralta said. “No kid should have to learn in a trailer. Forget about the state-of-the-art classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, we just want every student to sit and get an education in a real classroom.

Peralta first proposed the idea of the annex to the Department of Education two years ago, and was told that the agency agreed with the need for a solution to alleviate the overcrowding at P.S. 143. However issues arose because the property where the building would go is owned by the Parks Department. 

Yet the senator said that the building of a new annex would not affect the recreational areas because it would only take up the space already being used by the mini building and trailers. 

“Enough of the talk – we need the walk, we need actions. It is time to act now,” Peralta said. “This is the 21st century. We need to treat our kids like we are in the 21st century,”

Parents said they are concerned because their young children, mostly first-graders, have to go from one location to another during bad weather conditions and are also learning in classrooms with over 30 students. 

The parents added that they call on representatives of the Department of Education, Parks Department and School Construction Authority to believe that it was their children being made to learn in these conditions. 

“We are fighting and no one listens to us and we are tired of this situation,” said Juana de los Santos, who has two children attending P.S. 143. “I believe our children deserve a good education because they are the future of this country. We want an answer and soon, we don’t want them to tell us ‘Here, in five years it will happen.’ We are tired and our children are suffering.”

According to DOE spokesman Jason Fink, the agency is “working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”


Woodside gets more room to learn

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of SCA

Shovels full of dirt hit the ground to alleviate overcrowded classrooms in Woodside.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with city officials and the community on November 15 at the corner of 58th Street and 39th Avenue to break ground on the construction of P.S. 339.

“This new school is going to help so much here in Woodside,” said Van Bramer. “Here in Woodside, in our district, we have a serious overcrowding situation and I’m so thrilled that we’ve had a lot of these groundbreakings and that we’re building a lot of new schools in our district. The children of Woodside, Sunnyside and Long Island City deserve nothing but the very best.”

P.S. 339 is one of six new schools expected to be fully operational by 2016 in western Queens. Located at 39-07 57th Street, it will serve 472 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

The new five-story building will feature 22 standard classrooms, two special-education classrooms, multiple resource rooms, a music classroom, art classroom and “gymatorium.” The school will also have a library, cafeteria, kitchen, a community room, a general use and early childhood playground, and administrative, guidance and medical offices.

P.S. 339 is slated to open September 2015, with the facility fully operational by 2016.

Along with the new school, Van Bramer also announced the construction of a state-of-the-art extension to nearby P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave, which will add 350 seats and is expected to be open by 2016.

“I am so excited that this is happening,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “It’s for our community. It’s not my school, your school, it’s a school for Woodside children.”

Members of the Woodside community, School Construction Authority representatives and local elected officials broke ground on the construction of P.S. 339, which is expected to be fully operational by 2016. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano)



Cramped school gets new fourth grade

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A new class has been added to aid a cramped Clearview elementary school, after parents said students were packed like sardines in some classes that held close to 40 pupils, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said.

P.S. 209 shuffled programming and opened up a new general education fourth grade class at the overcrowded Clearview Gardens school on Thursday, September 27, according to a DOE spokesperson.

The change frees up classrooms by removing 13 general education kids from one class that once held 36, the spokesperson said. The new class also means 11 fewer students in the school’s single integrated co-teaching classroom, while the one gifted and talented class remains the same with 29 students.

“I know the teachers are great, but the overcrowding disrupts the learning,” said Iry Arroyo, a parent of a third grader at the school. “I’m happy they’re doing something about it. An extra class is great. It’s needed.”

According to State Senator Tony Avella, congestion within the building is exacerbated because P.S. 209 shares space with P.S. 9. Special education students, the local legislator said, were even pushed out to conduct physical education tests in the hallway as a result of space restraints.

“Classrooms of close to 40 students are simply unacceptable, no matter any budget constraints,” Avella said. “Every student in this city deserves a classroom where their teacher can check their homework assignments and they can get the individualized attention they need. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, students at P.S. 209 will be able to concentrate on their studies, not whether they fit into a classroom.”

Parent Silvania Karageorge welcomed the new class with open arms.

“The fewer students, the more they learn,” she said. “The fourth grade is overcrowded. Teachers can teach better when there are fewer kids in the class.”

OpEd: PCBs and Overcrowding in Schools Point to a Larger Problem

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Recent reports of a leak of a highly toxic chemical compound, PCB, in a Queens school and of continued, severe overcrowding in many of the borough’s schools have no doubt caused concern among some Queens parents.

Parents and other members of the public should know that these issues are symptoms of a larger problem. New York City spends far less on its school facilities than other large urban districts in the U.S., according to a new report, “Not Making the Grade: The Growing Crisis in New York City’s Public School Facilities,” produced by two school workers’ unions, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and Local 94 of the International Union of Operation Engineers.

Children’s achievement in school, as well as their health, depends on school facilities providing safe, sanitary environments conducive to learning. Research shows, for example, that children attending schools in subpar condition score lower on standardized tests. But New York City has in recent years slashed the budget for school maintenance and operations by more than $50 million. The city now spends a mere three percent of its overall education budget on facilities, a third or less than the amount spent by other large urban districts such as Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas.

The city’s failure to place a higher priority on the condition of its school facilities is apparent in continued school overcrowding, which is most severe in Queens and Staten Island. It is also evident in the city’s slow response to the threat posed by PCB-contaminated or potentially contaminated light fixtures and building caulk in schools around the city.

This inadequate funding of school facilities is shortsighted and possibly dangerous. PCBs are a banned toxin known to cause cancer and hinder children’s neurological and cognitive development. Delays in removing light fixtures potentially contaminated with PCBs from classrooms, cafeterias and guidance offices may pose an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to our children, teachers and other school staff, including the janitorial workers who clean our schools every day.

Cuts to school custodial budgets also risk costing taxpayers more down the road because postponing maintenance and repairs now can lead to the need for pricier repairs later. Overcrowding can similarly drive up future costs by increasing the daily wear and tear on school buildings.

Also hit hard by the inadequate funding for school facilities are the men and women who work hard every day to keep our school buildings clean, sanitary and running well. New York City’s schools have 5,000 cleaners represented by 32BJ and 1,000 engineers represented by Local 94. As city funding cuts have forced schools to significantly reduce custodial staffs and supplies, the workers who remain are struggling to keep schools up to par with below-par resources. The harm is compounded by the indignity of the city’s denying these workers any raises, even for cost of living, for more than five years.

Parents and taxpayers in Queens depend on the city to ensure that our school buildings provide a healthy, clean environment where children can learn and succeed. When the city fails to provide sufficient funds for that to happen, children, teachers and other school workers suffer the consequences.

Hector Figueroa is secretary-treasurer of 32BJ.

DOE says overcrowded schools should ‘best decide how to use their space’

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Coaxing a child into studying can be challenging as it is – let alone when they are asked to do so in a raucous hallway or leaky trailer.

Community Education Council District 30 (CEC30), a western Queens parent group, is pushing the city to ease the congestion in two local elementary schools – so crowded that children are forced to learn in unconventional and unsuitable locations – by building additions to the existing structures.

The organization presented its concerns regarding the overcrowding at P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Avenue in Woodside, and P.S. 2, located at 75-10 21st Avenue in Jackson Heights, on January 6 in its annual recommendations to the School Construction Authority (CSA).

“At P.S. 11, teachers have to take students out of the classroom for individual attention, but because there is no other classroom, they pull a chair out in the hallway,” said Isaac Carmignani, CEC30 co-president. “P.S. 2 has no auditorium, and the cafeteria is part hallway. They have temporary classroom units which are over 20 years old. So the roofs leak, causing the floors to rot. The situations are doing damage to our young people – damage that we can’t measure.”

P.S. 11 has received a violation from the Department of Buildings for obstructing the hallways, and Carmignani says they have also been cited by the FDNY.

The Department of Education (DOE) currently has no plans to expand the schools, which Carmignani believes is a shame, considering the land already belongs to the city.

According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, the schools are a high priority, but the situations are not drastic enough to be detrimental to the students’ education.

“We know that space in this district is at a premium, which is why we have a number of projects in the works for District 30 in Queens that will create more high quality school seats for parents and communities in the upcoming years,” said Thomas. “In the meantime, we trust the school leadership to best decide how to use their space.”

Based on DOE statistics from the 2010-11 school year, P.S. 2 had a utilization rate of 105 percent, while P.S. 11 had a rate of 114 percent.

Anna Efkarpides, the principal of P.S. 11, believes teachers are adapting as best they can, but more space would greatly enhance their abilities as educators.

“Due to the overcrowding, teachers have to push into already overcrowded rooms or go to hallways, the cafeteria when no lunch is being served, locker rooms and even supply rooms and book rooms,” said Efkarpides. “As much as kids try to focus, if every 10 minutes you have children walking past you, you cannot learn. And the children in the hallway have the special needs. We have half-rooms and we keep getting more children and special education classes.”

Efkarpides says she is also perplexed as to why the DOE spent several million dollars to repair the school’s yard rather than expand the building.

Parents have echoed the faculty’s concerns, fearing their children are in danger – both physically and educationally.

“It is very upsetting to know that your child’s school is subpar in terms of basic things like a chair to sit on or a room to sit in,” said Elba Santiago, whose son and daughter both attend P.S. 11. “I don’t think there are words that can describe how upsetting the situation is. My son is asthmatic, and in one of the classrooms that he was in, the teacher’s foot went through the wood because it rotted. It’s sad to say that these children are being taken advantage of because of their position in life. I guess the message we are giving [our children] is that education is not a priority.”