Jan. 23, 2014 By Christian Murray
The construction of several new school buildings in the Sunnyside/Woodside area is likely to help alleviate overcrowding problems in the long term—but it is creating many short term concerns for parents.
This summer, the School Construction Authority will be developing an 850 seat building at PS 11 (54-25 Skillman Avenue), which will begin with the demolition of an outdated mini building that caters to more than 200 students.
The whole process to construct the building is expected to take two years, which will mean that there will be 200 fewer seats in the interim.
Currently, education officials plan to bus all in-coming kindergarten children to PS 171 in Astoria during the first year of construction given the shortage of seats. During the second year, these children will then be sent to a new Woodside school that opens in 2015 (PS 339), which will be a ¼ mile away from PS 11.
However, in recent weeks as word of the plan has spread, several parents have spoken out against it. Politicians are now discussing whether the children should be sent to a Sunnyside school that is opening this fall.
Martin Connolly, a parent whose son Edna will be entering kindergarten at PS 11 in September, said last month that the plan to send the children to Astoria “makes no sense.” He said that he will have children that will be going to the Woodside location while his son Edna will bused 2.5 miles to Astoria.
This week several politicians came forward and are putting pressure on Department of Education to reconsider the plan. They wrote a letter to School Chancellor Carmen Farina asking her to rethink the plan.
“We want the Department of Education to reconsider how they accommodate the new students while the expansion takes place,” said State Sen. Mike Gianaris. “We all agree that we need more space…but current students and parents must not be forced to suffer in the meantime.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that plan is to bus the children to PS 171 is far from a done deal.
“I’m hopeful that they will keep the children as close to home as possible… and the option of sending the children to PS313 (the new school opening in Sunnyside this September) is very much under consideration,” Van Bramer said.
PS313 is located at 45-46 42nd Street.
“There will certainly be enough space at PS 313,” Van Bramer said, since the Department of Education does not fill up new schools when they open. For instance, during the first year, only kindergarten children will attend PS 313—and the school will not be fully utilized until those kindergarten children reach 5th grade.
The final decision as to where the income PS 11 kindergarten children will ultimately be made in by the Panel for Education Policy in the next two months.
However, this will be the first of several school relocations that are anticipated in the neighborhood.
IS 125, located at 46-02 47th Avenue, is also getting a new building—which will lead to the demolition of its mini-building—and officials will have to determine where many of those students will go too.