Officials Want Plan Reconsidered
The city Department of Education (DOE) scrapped a controversial plan to bus nearly 250 kindergarteners from Woodside’s P.S. 11 to Astoria’s P.S. 171 while the Woodside school is being renovated.
Several elected officials- including Rep. Joe Crowley-urged the DOE to instead consider busing these students to the former St. Teresa School in Woodside.
The move to bus students to a school three miles away was in response to overcrowding at P.S. 11. An expansion to the school is being built, but while construction is ongoing, the DOE needs to reassign the 250 students.
Crowley, along with City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, voiced opposition to against the original proposal. They sent letters to DOE Commissioner Carmen Fariña on the matter last week-prior to the DOE’s announcement-and in January.
In the end, the Panel for Educational Policy-at Fariña’s suggestion-delayed last week a vote on the controversial plan.
“I am encouraged by the collaborative effort by the Department of Education, the School Construction Authority and the Mayor’s Office to delay the vote on the proposal to bus over 250 kindergartners from Woodside to a school almost three miles away in Astoria,” Crowley said in a press release. “Every alternative must be considered to ensure that these young children receive a quality education without having to be uprooted from their home community.”
TheMarch letter favors St. Teresa because of it’s proximity and available open space.
The letter stated, “This option would be much closer to P.S. 11 and would provide the adequate space needed for a safe and positive learning environment.”
St. Teresa, which closed in 2005, currently rents part of its space to P.S. 199, but the letter points out “the second and third floors of the building are unoccupied.”
At a Feb. 25 press conference, Van Bramer spoke out against the busing, urging the department to rethink the impact a change in schools can have on the lives and educations of very young students.
The event was held the day after officials were informed of DOE’s final recommendations to move forward with the busing plan.
“The Department of Education’s decision to relocate over 230 kindergarten students to PS 171 in Astoria will disrupt the lives of countless families,” Van Bramer said.
He added that many in his constituency agree, “Parents believe this is the best option for their children, and I highly recommend the Department of Education reevaluate their decision.”
Crowley has also pointed out that getting to P.S. 171 can be difficult coming from Woodside because the “[the school] is a half-hour bus ride away from P.S. 11 and is over seven blocks from the nearest subway station.”
Because P.S. 11 in Woodside is overcrowded, in January 2013 plans were announced to build an annex which will add 350 seats for students. Construction is expected to be well underway by September, when school opens after summer recess.
The annex is scheduled to open by 2016.
Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywomen Catherine Nolan and Margaret Markey and State Sen. Michael Giannaris all co-signed both letters in support of the revised proposal.