By Dustin Brown
Parents at PS 87 in Middle Village held an impromptu celebration outside the school last Thursday evening after School Board 24 approved a rezoning resolution that will allow their children to stay in the school until eighth grade.
“This is a very good school,” said JoAnne Scichilone as she chatted effusively with a half dozen other parents next to the side entrance of the school shortly past 9 p.m. “You can’t get an education any place in the neighborhood like you can get here.”
The current fifth graders will remain at the 80th Street school through the eighth grade, gradually transforming PS 87 into the district’s only K-8 facility, which will serve as a pilot program for the district. PS 87 now serves as an overflow school to house students from PS 88, PS 7 and PS 199, which are too overcrowded.
The move also means that some students from PS 87 will no longer have to cross a dangerous railroad underpass to reach IS 119, which they would ordinarily attend from sixth through eighth grade.
The decision was only one in a series of adjustments in school boundaries and grade levels the school board approved at the special meeting last Thursday.
The changes were designed to accommodate new and expanded facilities that will open in September, part of an ongoing effort to create more space in the city’s most overcrowded district, which covers the neighborhoods of Glendale, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Woodside, Elmhurst and Corona.
“The first major steps toward relieving overcrowding in the district have finally been taken,” said School Board 24 President Patricia Grayson. “But we can’t sit back and rest on our laurels. We still have to work until every child has a viable education in a room that isn’t bursting at the seams.”
Parents were generally pleased with the school board’s decisions.
“They listened to the concerns of the neighborhood and took that into account before they made their decision,” said Gloria Morgenstern, the president of the district’s Presidents’ Council, which is made up of parent association presidents from all of the schools. “It’s not a perfect situation, but we’re so overcrowded that at this point any alleviation we can get is better than nothing.”
One lingering concern is that some students will not begin intermediate school until seventh grade, meaning they will only be exposed to the more adult expectations of the new setting a year later than many other intermediate school students.
Two new schools will open their doors in the upcoming school year: PS 58, an elementary school on Grand Avenue in Maspeth that will go from prekindergarten to the sixth grade, and PS 28, an early childhood center in Corona spanning pre-K to second grade.
Meanwhile, two more facilities will be able to accommodate more students starting in September. A new addition will add hundreds of seats to PS 91 on Central Avenue in Glendale, and PS 153 on 60th Lane in Maspeth, which had been operating out of a second building while the main structure was refurbished, will begin holding classes in both facilities.
Students for PS 58 will be drawn from PS 102, PS 153 and PS 229, formerly K-5 schools that will use the extra space to expand in both directions to include a sixth grade and likely one prekindergarten class. The move will also relieve some overcrowding at IS 73 on 54th Avenue in Maspeth.
PS 28 will take its kindergartners and first and second graders from PS 14, PS 16 and PS 143, all of which will continue to house kindergarten through the fifth grade.
“They’re so overcrowded, it’s just going to alleviate them a little bit,” Morgenstern said.
PS 91 will draw students from PS 68 and PS 88 with its new addition, and some students originally zoned for PS 71 will now attend PS 153.
Kindergartners and first- and second-graders living in the blocks between 35th Avenue and 37th Avenue, from 83rd Street to 87th Street, will attend the new PS 222 in District 30 until they reach the third grade.
The school board also approved the creation of another district-wide Beacon Program, which keeps a designed school open after-hours to provide programs for gifted and talented students, in the northern end of the district.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.