Tag Archives: P.S. 11

DOE votes to bus more than 250 Woodside students to Astoria school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents have lost the fight to keep their children close to home.

The Department of Education (DOE) voted on Wednesday night to temporary relocate more than 250 students from P.S.11 in Woodside to P.S. 171 in Astoria for the next three years.

The relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I have maintained that the expansion of P.S. 11 is a necessary investment in our children’s education and is vitally important to alleviating our overcrowded schools,” Congressman Joseph Crowley said. “However, I am disappointed and troubled by the DOE’s lack of foresight to avoid this terrible situation.”

Crowley added, “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families. Our children only get one real opportunity at a great education and it is unfortunate our city cannot do right by them.”

Seven members of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) voted in favor of the proposal, while two were against and one abstained from voting.

Since December, parents and elected officials fought to keep the students closer to their Woodside homes and last month asked the DOE to consider renting space in the nearby former St. Teresa School building.

But P.S.11 parents say the DOE told them the former Catholic school would not be practical for the students due to lack of adequate resources at the site.

“Where there is a will there should be a way,” said Martin Connolly, whose youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year and faces being bused to Astoria. “We are just disappointed. At the moment we are just accepting the situation.”

“We are now looking very seriously at our son’s future,” the father of three said.

Connolly also has two other children currently at P.S. 11, a daughter in second grade and son in kindergarten.

“After extensive outreach to the community, we decided to move forward on delivering a state-of-the-art addition to P.S. 11 that will enrich student’s academic experience and reduce overcrowding,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.

 

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Pols ask for closer alternative for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Woodside parents and politicians are asking the Department of Education to consider renting space in a nearby former Catholic school building rather than busing the kindergarten and first-graders miles away to Astoria.

Last week, a group of elected officials sent a letter to the DOE asking it to send the students from P.S. 11 in Woodside to the former St. Teresa School building, instead of P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The letter came as the agency announced the vote on the Woodside school’s partial co-location and re-siting had been postponed until April 9.

The 3-year relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, is a result of the School Construction Authority’s plan to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

In the letter the officials wrote the new option would provide the students the adequate space needed for a safe and positive learning environment, together with keeping in mind the concerns of parents. It would also keep the children in the same neighborhood.

P.S. 199 in Long Island City currently rents the first floor of the St. Teresa building for its kindergarten classes. The second and third floors are unoccupied, according to the officials.

Martin Connolly, father of three, was happy to hear about the DOE’s vote postponement and believes moving the children to the St. Teresa building would make it manageable for both the families and students.

“We as a family are more comfortable with the idea. We would like to keep our kids close by, we don’t believe our children are old enough to travel that distance every day,” said Connolly, who has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11. His youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year. “They’re toddlers, they’re still babies.”

The Woodside father also said other parents have not been told exactly what will happen during the three years of the temporary co-location and that when parents sign their children up for P.S. 11, they are not made aware of the re-siting.

“The DOE needs to know that everyone should be made aware of this,” he said. “They need to realize that everybody’s child is precious to them.”

The DOE did not respond to request for comment by press time.

 

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DOE postpones vote on temporary relocation plans of Woodside’s P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan

The Department of Education (DOE) announced the vote on a Woodside school’s partial co-location and re-siting has been postponed.

Next month, the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) will decide if kindergarten and first grade students from P.S. 11 in Woodside will be sent to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The three-year relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I am encouraged by the collaborative effort by the Department of Education, the School Construction Authority and the Mayor’s Office to delay the vote on the proposal to bus over 250 kindergartners from Woodside to a school almost three miles away in Astoria,” said Congressmember Joseph Crowley. “Every alternative must be considered to ensure that these young children receive a quality education without having to be uprooted from their home community.”

Last month, Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11 to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation to move forward with the plan.

The PEP was originally going to vote on the proposal on March 18 but will now vote on April 9.

 

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Parents, pols oppose temporary relocation plan for P.S. 11 students


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A group of Woodside parents is sending the Department of Education (DOE) back to the drawing board.

Congressmember Joseph Crowley gathered with other local elected officials and parents of students from P.S. 11, located at 54-25 Skillman Ave., to voice their disagreement with the DOE’s final recommendation of sending the school’s kindergarten and first grade students to P.S. 171 in Astoria.

The temporary relocation of the students, expected to begin for the 2014-15 school year, comes as the School Construction Authority (SCA) plans to build a brand new mini-building addition to P.S. 11 with a capacity of 856 seats.

“I commend the DOE and the SCA for allocating millions of dollars towards this expansion,” Crowley said. “At the same time, though, we must ensure that our children, especially our youngest elementary students, are not displaced to a school outside of the confines of their own neighborhood.”

Last month, the elected officials sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urging her to reconsider the proposed plan.

According to the DOE’s proposal, the incoming kindergarten class and some first grade students would be transported by bus to P.S. 171, close to three miles away from their zoned school. Then for the 2015-16 school year the children would be relocated to a new elementary school located at 39-07 57th Street. For the third year, the students would then return to P.S. 11.

Woodside parent Julianne O’Riordan currently has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at P.S. 11, and her youngest son is expected to start kindergarten at the school next year.

“For the first three years of school he’s going to be moved around Queens like a piece on a chess board,” said O’Riordan, about her youngest son, Enda. “We love P.S. 11, its principal, teachers and staff. That is why we are upset that our younger children may not get to have the same wonderful experience that our daughter has enjoyed.”


Enda,4, and his 5-year-old brother Luke will have to go to P.S. 171 next year. (Photo Courtesy of Julianne O’Riordan)

Although the group of parents and elected officials are thrilled to be getting an expansion for the crowded school, they are calling on the DOE to look at different options that would keep the children in the community.

“Taking these kids and moving them miles away to school is going to damage their education and slow them down in their progress and it’s something we impose upon the [DOE] to fix, and fix before it becomes a problem,” State Senator Michael Gianaris said.

Throughout the process of deciding the best course of action during the estimated three year construction, consideration was given to every possible option, according to the DOE.

“Our aim is to deliver a state-of-the-art addition to the building, and as part of our newly announced engagement protocol, we will be scheduling a meeting with the entire school community,” said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield.

 

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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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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.”

Students rally against bullying at P.S. 11


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer

The students of P.S. 11 are urging kids across the city to “give peace a chance.”

Parents, faculty and all 1,300 children from the school, located at 54-25 Skillman Avenue

in Woodside, united on November 22 for a peace march and anti-violence rally.

The parade was in protest to the increase in bullying and violence that has become a perpetual problem plaguing schools. Students carried hand-made signs and photos and chanted cheers calling for peace.

During the event, the mothers of two P.S. 11 alumni, both of whom lost their lives to violence, were acknowledged.

“There is a wave of bullying and violence across the city, and two of our alumni were killed due to violence,” said Anna Efkarpides, principal of P.S. 11. “We have been talking about making the future of Sunnyside and Woodside safer for our children. The march was a combination of the students wanting to express themselves and in memory of the two alumni. We wanted to have it around Thanksgiving, a time when everyone is thankful and hopeful for a better and more peaceful tomorrow.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who is an advocate of anti-bullying and anti-violence initiatives, also attended the march.

“It is important to remember and be thankful for the men, women and children who have said no to violence and spoken out in favor of peace,” said Van Bramer. “The students that marched here today are our future. Their message of love and peace takes us toward a better tomorrow. I will continue to do all I can to promote and support anti-violence and anti-bullying initiatives.”

Self-defense seminar held in Woodside


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Center for Anti-Violence Education held a free self-defense course in the gymnasium of P.S. 11 in Woodside on Sunday, November 6.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn attended the event, along with more than 60 people hoping to learn useful techniques for protecting themselves against unwanted sexual assaults. The event was in response to several sexual assaults that recently took place in Sunnyside and Woodside.