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Local News March 7, 2013  RSS feed

MORE QUESTIONS THAN SOLUTIONS

Corona Parents Press Agency On School Plans
by Will Sammon

Concerned parents of students in Corona—a hub for overcrowded schools—flocked to the Community Education Council of District 24 (CEC 24) meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 26, at PS 58 in Maspeth seeking details about school construction projects in their area, only to be left just as vexed as they entered.

A representative of the School Construction Authority (SCA) discussed the February 2013 amendment to its 2009-2014 capital projects, providing an update on schools and improvements under construction and where the need for more seats remains.

The proposed February Amendment reflects an increase of $290 million, which includes an increase of $200 million in funding from the city to address damage due to Hurricane Sandy.

The problem of overcrowding remains, the SCA confirmed, and schools are not being built fast enough to handle it.

District 24, which covers neighborhoods from Ridgewood to Corona, is reportedly in dire need of more seats. The five-year plan funded more than 5,000 additional seats in the district. Eight new schools are being built in the district—four in Corona, two in Ridgewood and two in Maspeth.

The largest one, P.S. 315, under construction at 96-18 43 Ave. in Corona, will hold 1,110 students and is the largest elementary school currently going up in the borough. The program also includes the addition being built at P.S./I.S. 87 in Middle Village.

The SCA said they go by a rating system after an inspection in deciding what projects are needed for funding. For example, schools with broken windows would qualify as a priority, the SCA said.

“It’s like we can’t build these schools quick enough,” said Nick Comaianni, president of CEC 24.

The expected surges in enrollment at the new schools raise questions from parents whose kids currently attend overcrowded institutions. Many parents were unsure if students will be rezoned to new schools and forced out of old ones.

“Because of over-population problems and new schools opening, where are the children going to be?” asked Maria Velez, a parent of a student at P.S. 143.

On multiple occasions, often expressing frustration, Comaianni said representatives of the Department of Education’s Department of Portfolio Planning told him that they were booked for the entire month and not able to attend the meeting.

“Portfolio are the ones who have the answers,” Comaianni said. “The new kids are the factor. Rezoning is only for kids coming into kindergarten.”

Madelene Taub-Chan, District 24 community superintendent, said the P.S. 143 annex is closing and students in it are returning to the main building next year. The children coming into kindergarten at P.S. 143 will be annexed, she said.

P.S. 143, which now is at more than 120 percent of designed capacity and could go higher than 140 percent of capacity until other new schools open over the next few years.

“We need help now,” said parent Rosa Rodriguez. “Our children don’t have three years to wait for schools to be built. It seems like this problem is not avoidable right now.”

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The Community Education Council of District 24 generally meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at schools around their district. For more information, call 1-718-418-8160.