Feb. 25, 2014 By Christian Murray
The Department of Education alerted elected officials yesterday that PS 11 will be required to send all its incoming kindergarten students to a school in Astoria this September.
The DOE was forced to make a decision since the school’s outdated mini building–which caters to more than 200 students—is scheduled to be demolished this summer. The mini building will be flattened in order to make way for the construction of an 850-seat building.
The whole process to construct the new building at the 54-25 Skillman Ave. school is expected to take two years, which will mean that there will be 200 fewer seats at the school over that period.
But the DOE’s decision to ship kindergarten children to Astoria did not sit well with elected officials or parents. They want the DOE to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better solution—preferably one where the children remain in Sunnyside or Woodside.
“I commend the School Construction Authority and DOE for allocating millions of dollars toward this [school] expansion and the elimination of trailers at PS 11,” said Congressman Joseph Crowley. However, “We must make sure our children are not displaced and schooled outside the confines of their own neighborhood.”
Currently, the DOE plans to bus all in-coming kindergarten children to PS 171 in Astoria during the first year and then to a new Woodside school that opens in 2015 (PS 339), which will be a ¼ mile away from PS 11. The following year, the children will return to PS 11, with construction complete.
Many parents have been calling on the DOE to use PS 313 (the new school opening at 45-46 42nd Street in Sunnyside this September) for the 2014/2015 school year, instead of busing the children 2.5 miles away to PS171 in Astoria.
However, the DOE has yet to develop a final plan for PS 313, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. The DOE, however, is under enormous pressure to deviate from standard New York City school policy, where schools only cater to kindergarten and first graders upon opening. Typically, schools only become full once the first graders reach fifth grade.
The PS 11 parents are hoping that the DOE might depart from the standard policy with PS 313. However, there is also pressure to fill the school up with students from nearby PS 199, which is also an overcrowded school.
Furthermore, PS199 is in School District 24, which is the same as PS313. PS11 is in School District 30 and there is a strong tendency for the districts to remain separate.
“Everyone has worked so hard to get more classroom space but unfortunately the implementation of that expansion is going to hurt the kids,” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris. “We need another answer.”
State Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan said that the elected officials objected to the DOE decision when it was brought to their attention yesterday and that they have raised the matter with New York School Chancellor Carmen Farina.
Nolan said it is not too late to get the DOE to come up with a better alternative. The DOE’s decision was not a written one, she said. However, she acknowledged time is running out.
Meanwhile, Van Bramer said that he has been in contact with the Mayor Bill de’Blasio’s office over the matter.