By Bill Parry
IS 125 in Woodside will finally get some relief for its overcrowding.
A permanent, $50 million annex will replace a temporary mini building and dilapidated trailers that have been used as classrooms for nearly 20 years. The annex will add 600 seats to the school that is currently operating at 125 percent capacity with 1,756 registered students in Grades 4-8, according to Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2.
Construction on the new building will begin as early as this summer and will include a cafeteria, a gym and several state-of-the-art classrooms.
Principal Judy Lynn Mittler lamented that too many classes have been held in the cafeteria and library instead of proper classrooms.
“In this world, the fact that hope becomes a reality so quickly is rare,” she said.
In spite of the overcrowding situation, IS 125 has received “A” grades on each of its last three annual report cards, according to the city Department of Education.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) made the project a priority after Mittler gave him a tour two months ago.
“I promised her I would do everything I could to secure the extension. I pleaded to the School Construction Authority to get this as soon as possible,” Van Bramer said.
The overcrowding at IS 125 was also in violation of a State Supreme Court order prohibiting oversized classes, according to Conley.
“To illustrate the overcrowding conditions, the cafeteria has a capacity of 500 students, which translates into four lunch periods required to serve students. The first lunch period starts at 11 a.m. with the last lunch period at 2 p.m. The school day ends at 2:45 p.m.,” he explained.
Replacing the portable trailers had become the main goal of elected officials and educators.
“Fifth-grade students that attend classes in the trailers must walk back and forth no less than five times per day in all types of weather,” Conley said.
Many of those students attended the press conference in a cold drizzle Friday. Student government Vice President Alisia Quan, 13, spoke for them all, saying, “We’re all really excited to have these transportables taken away because we’re freezing.”
Overcrowding has been plaguing District 24 for decades.
Van Bramer said, “Once this facility is complete we will mark a tremendous milestone in our efforts to build six new schools in western Queens in just four years.”
The projects combined will add 2,600 new seats in his district. Lorraine Grillo, president of the city SCA, explained that 50,000 seats will be needed throughout the city, but they must focus on the most overcrowded schools.
“Our capital plan is based on need and the need in District 24 is more than any other district across the city,” she said.
The new annex should be fully operational by 2016.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.