By Bill Parry
Relief is on the way for PS 19 in Corona, the largest elementary school in New York City. Decades-old rusty temporary trailers will be removed and a new addition constructed to help solve one of the worst overcrowding situations in the borough.
PS 19 is currently operating at 167 percent capacity with 2,002 students, 500 of whom include kindergartners and first-graders taught in the exterior school trailers, and an additional 100 kindergartners who were co-located two years ago with PS 211 in Elmhurst.
Borough President Melinda Katz joined City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst) to make the announcement at PS 19 last Friday. “Classroom trailers are like Band-Aids – you can make it pretty, but it’s always a temporary fix and should never be a permanent solution,” Katz said. “For too long, PS 19 has been inadvertently punished for its own success.”
The plan includes removing all six Temporary Classroom Units at PS 19 and temporarily relocating 500 of its students to a nearby newly constructed building until the completed construction of a new physical addition to PS 19. Despite the overcrowding it has endured, PS 19 is an “A Grade” school and meets all of its student performance targets ,according to the City Department of Education 2013-2014 School Quality Guide. In addition, PS 19 students are rated as having made excellent year-to-year progress on the statewide English and Math tests, according to the DOE 2013-2014 School Quality Snapshot.
“What’s remarkable about PS 19 is in spite of bursting at the seams from chronic capacity issues and trailers breaking down, the school’s learning environment remains strong and the school performs consistently well,” Katz said. “But our families and our kids still deserve better resources. Thanks to every single person standing here today who fought together tirelessly for so many years with many others, and of course Chancellor Farina, we will once and for all get our kids out of these trailers and into real classrooms.”
The DOE and the City School Construction Authority have taken steps to combat overcrowding and improve existing school structures in the city. Of the SCA’s $13.5 billion 2015-2019 capital plan, $4.5 billion has been set aside for new school construction, which will include the new addition for PS 19.
The six TCUs, the largest of which was placed on-site in 1987, will be removed in the summer of 2016 to make room for the addition’s construction.
“We have worked long and hard to end overcrowding in Corona and the expansion of PS 19 is a milestone in our progress,” Ferreras said.
The councilwoman is a former student at PS 19, as is Assemblyman Moya .
“Kids belong in classrooms, not trailers,” Moya said. “For too long, the rusting, thin-walled trailers at PS 19 have stood as an ugly reminder of the educational inequality that plagues our school system. All students, regardless of what zip code they live in, deserve a world-class education, not classrooms fit for the junkyard.”
Construction on the new addition is expected to be completed in time for the 2018-2019 school year.
Nick Comaianni, the president of the Community Education Council for District 24, will be glad to see the trailers, meant to last for only ten years, finally be removed from PS 19.
“Eleven years and four different chancellors later, we’re finally getting an extension to the building,” he said. “It never should be such a long fight for parents to see relief, but it is absolutely wonderful that this generation of parents will actually see it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.