More than 200 residents in College Point have signed a petition calling for a middle school to replace soon-to-be shuttered St. Fidelis School.
“With St. Fidelis closing, we didn’t see it as a crisis but an opportunity,” said Andrew Rocco, president of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association. “People are flooding into College Point for the quality of life and great neighborhood. Why should we not have basic infrastructure like a middle school?”
The century-old Catholic elementary school at 124-06 14th Avenue will close this month due to declining enrollment and increased operating costs, The Courier previously reported.
Neighboring parishes will take in St. Fidelis students in the meantime, said Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
But local leaders are pushing the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to consider replacing the pre-K through eighth grade institution.
“The population in College Point is increasing dramatically,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “The community has been asking for a middle school for the last five years.”
The lawmaker added that area students have to travel outside their neighborhood to attend junior high. It took some seventh and eighth graders two hours to get to and from J.H.S. 194 when the city temporarily took away yellow school bus service in 2010.
A DOE spokesperson said St. Fidelis is still being reviewed for a potential lease.
It could become another elementary school to ease overcrowding at College Point’s two existing pre-K through fifth grade facilities. However, local leaders say a middle school would be more helpful.
“We’re getting things put into our neighborhood that service the entire city, yet we can’t have basic infrastructure needs,” said Rocco, pointing to the new police academy and waste transfer station at College Point.
Community Board 7’s education committee does not have an official stance on the issue. But Chairperson Arlene Fleishman, a former District 25 school board president, said the district needs more elementary school seats. She rejected the idea that College Point needs a middle school because students currently have to go outside their neighborhood.
“All our children, no matter where they live, have to travel to middle schools,” she said, “and high schools are even further.”
Darren Kaplan of College Point said the area would ideally get both a middle and elementary school to accommodate new members of the growing population.
“The middle school situation is ridiculous,” the 52-year-old father said. “It’s a mess.”
Rocco said congested elementary schools now will only lead to overcrowded middle schools later.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious. If the two elementary schools have kids packed in trailers outside, then there’s going to be a need for a junior high school because that’s next.”