Tag Archives: P.S. 209

Whitestone students, teachers walk to raise awareness for autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Students at one Whitestone school are showing that you can start giving back to the community even at a very young age.

In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, the staff and students at P.S. 209, located at 16-10 Utopia Pkwy., participated in a walkathon at the school throughout the day on Friday.

Each grade at the school, which goes from kindergarten through fifth grade, went out and walked around the building four times.

Weeks before the walkathon, the school raised money to donate to the organization Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) and its day school, an after-school program located in Whitestone. The school set a goal of $2,500 and as of Friday staff, students and their families raised close to $4,000.

“We have wonderful parents and our students are extremely involved so we’re really proud,” said Jacqueline Diaz Fernandez, assistant principal at P.S. 209. “The principal and I, we really feel that education is not just reading and writing and math. It’s so important that they really are well-rounded and ready to provide the community with extra services. I think we’re living in a society where everything is ‘me, me, me,’ and we want to teach the children that it is ‘us.’”

To raise money for the organization, autism awareness T-shirts were sold to staff members, 600 chocolate lollipops were made and sold, and pledges were made by the families of students.

“Autism is on the rise and we have some autistic kids in our building, and we wanted to donate money to something that directly affects our school and the children around us,” said Maria Sperrazza, a teacher and member of the special events committee that organized the event. “It’s fabulous that we can all come together and we always said P.S. 209 is a family.”

All the money raised before May 1 will go toward providing additional support to families at QSAC’s Whitestone location.

QSAC, which was started in 1978 by a group of parents who felt there weren’t enough services for children with autism, serves about 1,700 children and adults with autism in New York, with about 800 clients in Queens.

According to Pat Barrientos, external affairs coordinator for QSAC, events such as the walkathon help raise awareness for a disorder which a few years ago was found in 1 out of 110 cases, but presently affects 1 in 68 children.

“The lesson being taught here is about giving back, and at a very young age they are being taught to give back to their community and that’s a lifelong lesson that they will take with them — that it’s always good to share,” Barrientos said.

According to teachers, the walkathon served as a moment for the students to become aware of autism and also work together for a cause.

“I want to help stop autism,” said fourth-grader Kevin Bracken, who was named by the school as an autism awareness spokesman. “I think that people should fund and help all these diseases and disorders to help people. I love helping people.”

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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.”