Some Queens schools are shuttling students to other elementary schools because they are too overcrowded.
Five schools in District 24, based in Corona, have been sending kindergartners miles away to less-crowded schools, leaving many young students to endure longer commutes because the schools they were zoned for don’t have any room for them.
“District 24 does struggle with overcrowding,” said Department of Education spokesperson Jack Zarin. “It is the worst in the city.”
To alleviate the problem, Turin said DOE has been working on opening new schools in the area. Until then, he said DOE will continue to shuttle students outside of their zone school as a last resort.
“It is unfortunate we can’t accommodate these kids into their zoned schools,” Zarin said. “To make things easier for parents, we provide the shuttle service.”
But not all education advocates and parents are pleased with the plan.
“They just send a kid where there is available space, which is the wrong way to do it,” said Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council District 24, which oversees parts of western Queens, including Corona and Elmhurst. “They don’t know the local structure.”
A Hispanic mother, who refused to give her name because of fear of retaliation, sat outside Public School 14 in Corona waiting for the shuttle bus to drop off her four-and-half-year-old daughter. Every school day, her daughter, who is in kindergarten, travels about five miles from her zone school P.S. 14 to P.S. 199 in Long Island City, which is about 15 minutes away.
“It is a total disaster,” she said. “Nobody is happy with this disaster.”
In the beginning, she said, there were about 35 children taking the shuttle bus, but now only around 25 remain. She said many parents were unhappy that they had to send their children so far and that the school bus was usually late.
She said the bus is supposed to pick them up at 7:30 a.m., but many times doesn’t arrive until after 8 a.m. Then the bus drops them off around 3:45 p.m., even though they get out of school at 2:30 p.m. To make matters worst, she said she got a letter in the mail saying the pick-up time will change to 7 a.m.
“What else can we do if the kids have to study anyway,” she said.
But not every guardian was upset about the bussing.
“It is important that they go to school no matter where it is,” said Erasmo Peña, whose grandson is zoned for P.S. 14 but attends P.S. 199.
Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, said DOE needs to look into the impact policies like these have on the parents and their children. Sweet said determining the effect of the policies depends on how they affect the chances of the children participating in after-school programs.
“As a parent, you have to weigh in what is best for your child,” Sweet said. “For some, it is better to go to the other school, while others might be missing out on programs from the school that the child can’t attend.”