By Rebecca Henely
It required years of advocating and the sacrifice of a mansion, but government and school officials were glad to break ground on a new intermediate school in Jackson Heights Tuesday.
“This is a wonderful thing that’s happening here in this neighborhood,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
The new school, once known as the IS 230 Annex but now will be called IS 297, will rise at 33-35 74th St. The 36,200-square-foot school, a roughly $23 million construction project, will have the capacity for 400 students in Grades 6 through 8. Construction began in May and the school is expected to open for the September 2014 school year.
It will be four floors and will include 12 general classrooms, one special education classroom, two science labs, a reading resource room, a science prep room, a music classroom, an art classroom, an exercise room, a library, a cafeteria and administrative offices.
IS 297 is at the same intersection as PS 230. The lot on the northwest side of the intersection will be turned into a playground for both schools, Dromm said.
A mansion that was once a physician’s home formerly stood at the site. Jeff Guyton, co-president of Community Education Council District 30, said it was a shame to raze the beautiful house, even though it had fallen into disrepair. He said he would ride past the house multiple times a week on his bike as it was being dismantled.
“I’m always a little sorry to see these big, old houses come down,” he said.
Nevertheless, Guyton said the new school was a necessity. District 30 — which includes Astoria, Long Island City, East Elmhurst, most of Jackson Heights, a large section of Woodside and a part of Corona — is one of the most packed in the city
“This is the epicenter of our overcrowding,” he said.
Lorraine Grillo, president of the city School Construction Authority, said Dromm and others were adamant that another school location needed to be found in the built-up community.
“District 30 is very, very special to me,” Grillo said. “It’s where I grew up. It’s where my children grew up.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said it was crucial that the community create more schools in the district.
“Unless there’s a seat for every child, it’s a game of musical chairs … someone is always left standing,” he said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) came to the groundbreaking because she will represent parts of District 30 if re-elected.
“People move into a community because of schools,” she said. “We have an obligation to provide a seat for every child.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.