By Alexander Dworkowitz
Pre-kindergarteners to second graders entered PS 242 for the first time last Thursday in the Mitchell Linden area of Flushing, officially opening an early childhood center in one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city.
PS 242 at 136-11 31st Rd. contains 350 seats, and it is designed for kindergarten students through third graders. However, since the Board of Education avoids transferring students from one school to another, there is only one second-grade class and no third graders. Prekindergarten students fill up the resulting empty space.
“I think the building is gorgeous,” said Arlene Fleishman, vice president of Community School Board 25. “Parents love it so far.”
Queens has the most overcrowded schools in the city, and this year the borough expected to be short about 20,000 classroom seats. With the recent controversy about the $2.8 billion gap in the school construction budget, no relief has been in sight for the classroom seat shortage. Queens may lose six schools because of the shortage of funds.
PS 242 was built for 350 students. The fully air-conditioned, three- story, 48,000-square-foot building contains eight classrooms, eight learning centers and a pair of special education rooms as well as a multi-purpose room, cafeteria, and library. The school was built in one year, with construction beginning in August 2000.
“Queens has experienced a huge amount of overcrowding,” said Dan McCormack, spokesman for the School Construction Authority. “This is an attempt to alleviate some of those problems.”
PS 242 is one of several recent projects within School District 25, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace and parts of Auburndale and Fresh Meadows. An addition of 320 seats was constructed for PS 129 at 128-02 7th Ave.
According to the School Construction Authority, an addition to PS 195 will open in November with 300 more seats. The next school for District 25 is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the school year 2003.
Still, the new seats are no guarantee that District 25 will be free of overcrowding.
“For years we were shipping kids to the northern end [of the district],” said Fleishman. “But now the northern end is full as well.”
Fleishman, who has been on School Board 25 for 24 years, remembers the early 1980s, when “the schools were empty.” But the explosion of the immigration population in recent years has forever changed the landscape of District 25.
“They’ve certainly tried to build a lot of schools in the last five years,” said Fleishman. “But if they keep building residential homes, we are going to need more schools. You don’t know how much will be enough.”
Reach reporter Alex Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.