By Bill Parry
Elected officials in western Queens have lost a three-month battle with the city Department of Education and nearly 250 incoming kindergartners at PS 11 in Woodside will be bused 3 miles away every school day beginning this fall.
The 4- and 5-year-old children have been displaced by construction of a much-needed permanent 850-seat annex at the chronically overcrowded elementary school.
The city Panel for Educational Policy voted 7-2 in favor of the busing plan April 9, with one member abstaining. The students will attend PS 171 in Astoria for the entire school year and then spend the following two years at PS 339, now under construction in Woodside.
“It is unconscionable that in the face of vehement objections from many parents and community members, the Department of Education is moving forward with a plan to bus kindergartners from Woodside to a school almost 3 miles away in Astoria,” U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said.
The congressman added his concern that PS 171 is seven blocks away from the nearest subway station, which would be a burden to parents who need to travel to the school in the event of an emergency.
“I am disappointed that the Department of Education could not find alternative options suggested by PS 11 parents which would have kept their children closer to home,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.
Van Bramer had been working behind the scenes to find a compromise with the DOE that would have sent the children out of their District 33 but just a half mile away to PS 313, an elementary school currently in the late stages of construction, at 45-46 42nd St. in Sunnyside.
There was resistance to the plan from CEC 24, which has an enormous overcrowding problem of its own.
Another compromise plan was suggested using space at St. Teresa’s school building, at 50-20 45th St. That option was rejected by the PEP.
“I am disappointed and troubled by the DOE’s lack of foresight to avoid this terrible situation,” Crowley said. “The DOE’s poor planning and judgment will now place a significant burden on 250 of our youngest students and their families. Our children only get one real opportunity at a great education and it is unfortunate our city cannot do right by them.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) added to the criticism of the city agency saying, “By moving forward with this ill-advised plan, the DOE is ignoring the concerns of an entire community. Like many students and parents at PS 11, I am deeply disappointed that the DOE has made the worst out of what should be a good situation.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.