By Joe Anuta
The city Department of Education announced last month that District 24, which includes many western Queens neighborhoods, will be getting money to add 2,000 additional seats in nine new schools for students in the area.
The seats will offer relief for a district nearly bursting with children. It is the most crowded in the city, according to Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council District 24, and includes PS 19 in Corona — the biggest elementary school in the country with more than 2,000 students.
“It will help greatly, without a doubt,” Comaianni said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
District 24 covers Glendale, Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Corona, Elmhurst, Woodside, Liberty Park, Long Island City and Woodhaven.
The extra seats were not originally budgeted for in the $11.3 billion five-year capital plan put forth by the Department of Education that was adopted in June 2009. The capital plan dictates how and where money for education will be spent, according to a document released by the department.
But due to the uncertain economy and the city’s budget deficit, the department will be making amendments to the five-year plan every year.
In this case, the department decided that District 24 needed money to build new schools. According to Comaianni, district officials plan to use the funds to build nine new schools.
“We’re looking to build mostly in the Corona and Maspeth area,” Comaianni said.
Specifically, the funds will go toward building a school on Metropolitan Avenue near Grover Cleveland High School and to build an extension to PS/IS 87 in Middle Village. Comaianni said that the CEC has also looked at 3 or 4 new school sites in Corona and are looking for three additional sites.
But the funds for the new schools did not come easily.
“The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” Comaianni said. And he made sure the department heard his squeaks.
He said that he and other district officials petitioned department officials, and made the realities of the district’s overcrowding apparent.
“It’s definitely something we had to fight for,” he said. “We had to put a lot of hard work into it.”
According to the five-year capital plan, in the 2009-10 school year, the New York City public and charter schools experienced a 1.5 percent increase in citywide enrollment. And officials think the trend will continue, according to the document.
Citywide, 20,000 additional seats were added, along with $4.4 billion to the five-year capital plan, which is equally funded by the city and state.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.