Tag Archives: overcrowding

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)

 

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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

BY HECTOR FIGUEROA

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.”