One of the most overcrowded school districts in the city will be home to a new middle school built to alleviate the jam-packed classrooms that are common in western Queens.
School District 24, which encompasses Corona, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Long Island City, Maspeth and Middle Village, has long had a problem with overcrowding and schools in Corona have used trailers as makeshift classrooms for years.
I.S. 311Q, a five-story building in Corona that will serve 785 students from sixth through eighth grades, will officially open on Sept. 8 at 98-11 44th Ave.
First established in 2013, the school was located at 45-10 94th St. in the same building as Civic Leadership Academy, Pan American International High School, Voyages Preparatory and P752 and served a little over 100 students.
Now, the expanded school will play a part in helping the Department of Education (DOE) eliminate existing overcrowding. The school will also include amenities such as a dance studio, music suite and playground.
State Sen. Jose Peralta toured the school last month and said making the school a reality was a collaboration between community members and the city.
“It was an uphill battle, but it was a battle our kids won to alleviate severe school overcrowding that affects the district, especially in Corona,” Peralta said. “This is a win-win situation, so I am glad we can close this chapter.”
The School Construction Authority (SCA) estimates that School District 24 will need to add 7,250 seats to address classroom overflow.
The agency has planned to add more than 8,500 seats by the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report by the Independent Budget Office. But SCA estimates that an additional 4,400 seats will be needed by then to account for the influx of new students enrolling in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Citywide school enrollment is expected to grow by 5.7 percent by 2021-2022. In Queens, expected enrollment jumps to 10.4 percent during the same time period.
Councilman Daniel Dromm, who chairs the city’s Committee on Education, has worked with Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras to secure $868 million in funding for new school construction in the mayor’s five-year capital plan.
“But we know that we need about $4 billion more to meet the need and demand for every seat in every school and so that struggle continues and we’re not going to give up,” Dromm said.
The Department of Education uses their Capacity, Enrollment, and Utilization Report or “Blue Book” to decide capacity needs for the capital program. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has created a Blue Book Task Force, a mixture of representatives from the DOE, City Council, education advocacy organizations and other stakeholders, who have tweaked the formula for realizing capacity needs, Dromm said.
“We felt that formula was unfair to get a real picture [of capacity needs,]” he said. “We have a real number and you need to be able to work with real numbers.”
Now, the number of seats needed citywide to battle overcrowding in schools is estimated at 83,000, according to Dromm.
In addition to securing funding, Dromm said the community should work with the city to pitch locations for new schools. He points to his own district [School District 30] as an example. After community discussions, a former White Castle at 69-01 34th Ave. will be converted into a school by the SCA.
“What we also have to do is, when we find locations, that the community works with us to allow the school to come into the district,” Dromm said. “There were instances in Queens where locations are found and the community objected.”
Owners of the former Bayside Jewish Center sold their property to the SCA, which planned to open a new high school at the space. After several rallies and opposition voiced by state Sen. Tony Avella, the agency decided against the construction.
“The community needs to work with the city to open these schools,” Dromm said.