June 19, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
The Department of Education will soon vote on a five-year proposed budget that excludes some of western Queens’ most urgent needs, according to parents.
The proposed plan does not set aside funding for new seats in Hunters Point, according to DOE documents, despite parents learning in May that the DOE may soon truncate the middle school at PS/IS 78.
The proposed plan also fails to include funding for a middle school in Sunnyside/Woodside, even while acknowledging a need of more than 450 seats. Parents have long been campaigning for a new middle school below Sunnyside Yards, to help cater to an influx of students coming through new elementary schools in the area.
The DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the proposed 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan at Long Island City High School on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Advocates for schools in Hunters Point and Sunnyside/Woodside plan to speak up at the meeting.
The budget does provide funding to create nearly 6,000 seats in western Queens; those seats will largely be in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Middle Village and Maspeth.
For District 30’s Community Education Council, which covers both Hunters Point and much of the Sunnyside/Woodside area, the budget omissions are glaring.
At its meeting Thursday evening, the Council agreed to push for the addition of funds for new middle schools in both Long Island City and Sunnyside/Woodside at the upcoming PEP meeting.
“It just seemed like a good idea to me to, in a very forceful way, try our very best to have the PEP really recognize it as a primary concern of ours,” CEC 30 President Jeff Guyton said.
“Let’s put it in the capital plan now, before we’ve found a [new school] site, so that is a strong signal to the community that this must be done,” he added.
Leslie Costa of PS/IS 78’s PTA called the capital plan’s lack of new Hunters Point seats “crazy” and “negligent.”
“You can’t build 20,000 homes without a school. That doesn’t even make any sense,” Costa said, referencing Long Island City’s development boom.
She went on to call CEC 30’s efforts “wonderful,” but said she remains frustrated that a solution to prevent PS/IS 78 truncation has yet to materialize.
Although the new middle school campaigns regarding PS/IS 78 and Sunnyside/Woodside have been running parallel to each other, for CEC 30, the two issues are intrinsically intertwined.
District 30 Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto noted that truncation in Hunters Point would cause a “domino effect,” where students from elsewhere in western Queens who had been taking advantage of the resources in Long Island City would be pushed back into their already overcrowded zoned schools.
In overcrowded districts, Guyton agreed, “when you have problems in one area then they very quickly spread.”
When asked to comment for this story, a DOE spokesperson said, “we have committed to building over 1,900 new seats in District 30 alone, and we will continue to listen to families in the District, and across the city, to help address their needs.”
The 2015-2019 Capital Plan is available online here.