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An overcrowded P.S. 176 is set to receive a much-needed and well-deserved expansion.

The Cambria Heights elementary school is currently at 140 percent capacity, but will receive an extra 370 seats thanks to the expansion, fueled by Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis Walcott and other local officials.

“I like to see growth and things changing,” said the school’s principal of 10 years, Arlene Bartlett. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

This fall, P.S. 176 has about 820 children, averaging 27 students per class. Bartlett believes this may be due to the population boom that Cambria Heights experienced once housing in the area increased.

“Children need more space,” she said.

The engaged principal has been working with Assemblymember Barbara M. Clark and other local officials, advocating this expansion for nearly 15 years. Now, architectural plans are under way so the students can get the space they need.

Set to begin in September 2013, the expansion will involve an addition to the existing building as part of the DOE’s $11.3 billion capital plan. Occupancy is scheduled for 2016.

“This project is the latest investment we are making to our school facilities so that we can accommodate our students and help them succeed,” said Walcott. Since expansion plans are still in the very early stages, it is not yet clear just how much of the capital plan will be needed to fuel construction.

The well regarded school is said to be known for strong parent engagement and academic programming, along with support for English language learners and students with disabilities. P.S. 176 also offers the local district’s gifted and talened program, along with numerous performing arts and music programs.

Now pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, the expansion will allow the school, along with the talented and gifted program, to add a middle school reaching the eighth grade. Theoretically, the extra space will also allow class sizes to shrink.

“An extension for Public School 176 has been a battle I’ve waged for several years. The real benefactors are the teachers and the students,” said Clark.

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