By Stephen Stirling
What was initially planned as a public commentary quickly turned into a lively and constructive discussion between members of CEC 27 and representatives of the city agency. With parts of its district undergoing unprecedented growth, concerns are growing among members of the Community Education Council for District 27 that not enough is being done to consider accommodating future students in the region. Currently, the School Construction Authority operates off of a projected growth model developed by demographers to predict increases or decreases in future student population.New schools, however, often take upwards of four years to build and CEC 27 President Andrew Baumann said more pro-active thinking should be applied to plan schools for areas where development is likely. Baumann cited the Arverne by the Sea development, which is expected to bring 2,600 homes to the area over the next five to seven years. “These houses aren't being built for seniors,” he said. These houses are being built for families. These houses are being built for children and these children need schools.”Lorraine Grillo, senior director of real estate services for the SCA, agreed with Baumann to an extent, but said many of the schools in the Rockaways are operating well below capacity, which halts the agency from considering new schools in the area.”We do see a need for new schools, however we see a lot of schools that are being underutilized,” she said, adding that work should be done to insure those schools get filled before any new construction begins. “The numbers are the numbers and the numbers are real.” Grillo took on suggestions of locations in the area that could be researched as potential sites for new schools, such as a vacant lot adjacent from PS 106 in Far Rockaway and another across the street from St. John's Hospital near Beach 20th Street. Grillo stressed that the relationship between the two groups should be one of progress and discussion rather than finger-pointing and anger. Baumann agreed, and made plans to assess what areas in the district are priorities for new schools in the coming months. “We will do our best to scout new buildings and believe me, you will hear back,” he said. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 162.