Sept. 8, 2014 By Christian Murray
A Woodside couple with two small children has started a campaign to bring another middle school to the Sunnyside/Woodside area.
Sean and Deb McGowan, who both live in the Berkeley Towers, have enlisted the help of the School Construction Authority as well as local politicians in their quest to find a location where one can be built.
The duo are also looking to build community support for a new school and over the weekend set up a Facebook page where people could come together to discuss the cause. The page is called Sunnyside Woodside Middle School Project.
Sean McGowan, who spoke at the monthly Community Board 2 meeting Thursday, said that he was impressed by the number of new elementary schools that are being built in the area. However, he said he was concerned about where all these students will go once they hit middle school.
Historically, students from elementary schools PS 150 (40-01 43 Ave.), PS 199 (39-20 48th Ave.) and PS 11 (54-25 Skillman Ave.) have attended IS 125, a 1,700-student middle school located at 46-02 47th Avenue that is already overcrowded. While a 600-seat addition is scheduled to be built at IS 125, most of those seats will cater to the students who were once in trailers.
However, the number of students that are expected to go to middle school is likely to grow—as indicated by the opening of PS 343, the new elementary located at 45-46 42nd Street in Sunnyside, and PS339, an elementary school that is being built at 39-07 57th Street in Woodside. Furthermore, 300 seats are being added to PS 11.
“Where will all these children go to middle school?” Deb McGowan asked. “IS 125, while a good school, is already large and overcrowded.”
In April, Deb McGowan was at an education meeting where she got the opportunity to speak to School Chancellor Carmen Farina about the issue and provided her with a list of possible sites where a middle school could go.
“She took my list and within days I got a call from the head of the School Construction Authority [Lorraine Grillo],” Deb McGowan said. The School Construction Authority is taking the matter very seriously, she said, since “whenever I reach out to Lorraine she gets back to me within a day.”
The McGowans have taken up the cause with Congressman Joe Crowley, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
On August 18, Nolan and Crowley wrote a letter to Farina that stated: “We write to you as concerned elected officials regarding the shortage of middle schools…. We ask you to work with us and come up with a plan to build additional middle schools in our districts.”
Van Bramer said recently that he, too, is looking for sites for a middle school.
Sean McGowan said that the School Construction Authority needs a site that is no less than 12,000 square feet to build a school. He said the school could be built on its own lot—or it could even be located on the ground floor of a large residential/commercial building.
“The issue is space and we ask people to let us know of any sites that could be used,” Sean said.
The couple has asked the School Construction Authority to research sites along Barnett Avenue and to investigate the 39-34 43rd Street site that was considered by the Fire Department.