A Class Act As Mayor And  Chancellor Unit For School Opening

Without an elementary school in the vicinity of her Jackson Heights home, eight-year-old Alexandra used to travel several miles via bus to make to class in time for the 9 a.m. school bell. All that changed for the third grader this week, with the opening of P.S. 212.
With Queens enduring another year of school overcrowding, and short nearly 30,000 seats, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and School Chancellor Harold Levy joined together on Thursday to mark the opening of 620 brand new seats in Jackson Heights.
The Mayor kicked the year off with an early-morning announcement from principal John Bernardinos office, welcoming the eager, but obviously awe-struck youngsters to their new school. "I would feel better to know that everyone is studying and working hard," bellowed Giuliani over the intercom.
The Mayor and Chancellor toured the new $32 million facility, stopping to quiz some of the young students on their hopes for the future. "I want to be a helper, so I can keep the world clean," remarked a second-grader, sparking an immediate smile on the Mayors face. Other future occupations ranged from doctors to police officers to the Presidents assistant.
City Council Member John Sabini was influential in opening not only P.S. 212, but the newly opened I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights. "Without these new facilities, students would be forced to endure yet another year of over-capacity conditions," said Sabini. "The added classroom space and the overall learning environment at these schools will allow students to succeed."
Taking a hands-on approach to education, Levy asked a first-grade class "How many of you read a book this summer?" As nearly every hand in the classroom was raised with unmistakable youthful enthusiasm, the chancellor told the students "This is going to be a special year. I am very proud of you."
Placing their differing political views by the wa side, Levy and Giuliani stood side-by-side outside the school, emphasizing the importance to parents of utilizing Child Health Plus, a city-wide plan for free health insurance. "All you have to do is sign up," said Giuliani as he stood in front of a Child Health Plus van, parked in front of the school. He added that illegal immigrants are also welcome to use the service and "Nobody will ever ask any questions about your immigration status."
The Chancellor emphatically agreed. "This is an enormously valuable program for kids who would not normally be covered," remarked Levy. "This is something we can all do together as an expression of the citys in making a difference in the lives of children."
Then the Chancellor addressed the citys teacher shortage, proudly boasting that for every vacancy in a city SURR (School Under Registration Review) school, there was now a certified teacher to lead the classroom. Once again this year Queens claims the most overcrowded schools, short nearly 30,000 seats, despite four additional schools. The problem, said Levy, is that for the roughly 5,000 seats the city opened up, they were promptly occupied by nearly 5,000 additional students.
However, despite the notable bumps in the road, Levy stressed perspective when examining the city school system as a whole. "We have one million school children, and nearly 78,000 teachers; every organization is going to have squeaky wheels," said Levy. "But, this is a very positive time for us. This is a very good way to start the new year."
Staring gleefully at her sparkling new classroom, young Alexandra seemed to agree.

More from Around New York