DOE adding 6,000 seats in Queens

With school congestion having hit the ceiling, the Department of Education (DOE) recently took a step towards giving students supplemental space to let their minds grow.

The DOE recently announced that roughly 6,000 new school seats will be created in Queens, easing overcrowding throughout the borough.

“Over the next two years we plan to add an additional 6,000 seats in Queens, recognizing the growing needs of students and families in the borough,” said DOE spokesperson Matt Mittenthal.

Four new schools will be opened in September 2012 – P.S./I.S. 277 in Jamaica, with 665 seats; Eagle Academy in Jamaica, with an undetermined number of seats; H.S. 585 in Elmhurst, which will house Maspeth High School and contain 1,119 seats; and Middle College High School in Long Island City, with 820 seats. An addition will also be built on P.S. 29 in College Point, accounting for 232 new seats.

“Obviously this is a step in the right direction,” said Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council (CEC) District 24, which covers mid-western Queens. “We need a lot of help in District 24. We are the most overcrowded district in the entire city of New York. We usually have 400 kindergartners that we don’t have seats for – who we try and find seats for all over the district and disperse them everywhere. Even with new seats allocated to us now we are still at the maximum, and as the class sizes are higher, it makes it harder for kids to learn.”

The DOE plans to add seats in the fall of 2013 as well, with four new schools opening – an elementary school in both Corona and East Elmhurst and an elementary school and joint intermediate and high school in Long Island City, accounting for a total of 2,448 seats – and two additions being constructed at Richmond Hill High School and P.S. 87 in Middle Village.

CEC 30 is scheduled to meet on March 15 to discuss the construction of I.S./H.S. 404 – slated to open in L.I.C. in 2013 with 1,071 seats.

“Any new schools that go up, we are excited,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of CEC 30. “We need them desperately. We can’t get enough seats in District 30, District 24 and in the entire western Queens area.”

Carmignani says his district is the second most crowded in the city, and with housing booming in L.I.C., there is no way to measure how many additional seats schools will soon require.

“There are high rises and housing developments constantly going up in Hunters Point,” he said. “We are building so much that we never know if we are getting enough seats for students.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of the education advocacy group Class Size Matters, believes the DOE has grossly underestimated the degree of overcrowding in Queens schools.

“This is still not enough. What is interesting is that the DOE has admitted in the capital plan that they have severely underfunded the need in terms of how many seats should be built for Queens to accommodate enrollment growth,” said Haimson, who believes overcrowding can lead to academic failure and disciplinary issues. “They are underestimating the number of seats necessary to deal with overcrowding, huge class sizes and trailers that have outlived their usefulness. Our sense is that this is getting worse and not better.”

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