Flushing kindergartners in the middle of overcrowding debate

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library

This isn’t child’s play.

The fate of 120 kindergartners from a school in Flushing hangs in the balance of a vote school officials are scheduled to take later this month.

The 4-year-olds from P.S. 24 are currently educated in the school’s temporary trailers and the city wants to remove those trailers. Meanwhile, officials also want to temporarily move the students to a nearby school, P.S. 107.

“Some parents from P.S. 107 have objected to bringing in this group of students,” said Arlene Fleishman, a Community Board 7 member. “We’re talking about 4- and 5-year-olds here. They need to be put somewhere and it needs to be close to their original school.”

The parents from P.S. 107, Fleishman said, objected to the temporary co-location, claiming that it would increase traffic in the area and destroy the culture of the school. Despite parents’ objections, P.S. 107 can handle the extra five classrooms that would have to be made to accommodate the 120 kindergartners, according to the Department of Education.

The Panel For Educational Policy, a government body of 13 members elected by the mayor and the five borough presidents, will make a decision on March 25. Fleishman worries that if enough community members complain about the temporary co-location the panel will vote not to transfer the kindergartners, resulting in a construction stall at P.S.  24 and a loss of school seats.

“The overcrowding in Flushing schools is disgusting,” Fleishman said. “We are not in a position to say no to more school seats. I understand parents’ concerns but we have to do this.”

The city is in the process of removing external classroom trailers that were deployed more than two decades ago to hold back overcrowding in schools. The trailers, known as temporary classroom units, are being replaced with permanent expansions. These trailers were meant to be a temporary solution, and the city is finally creating permanent modules and attachments to existing schools.

Should the city build an extension to P.S. 24, an extra 500 seats will be created. The new seats will help the overcrowding problems that are affecting Flushing and schools across Queens and New York City.

“The Department of Education is committed to continuing to expand school capacity in Queens, where many communities are in need of more school space,” a spokesman for the Department of Education (DOE) said.

According to the DOE, the expansion of P.S. 24 will result in much-needed new capacity to serve a school where enrollment has been growing at a rapid pace.

The DOE plans on removing all of the trailers throughout the city, but they didn’t have a completion date.

Fleishman recently urged Community Board 11 to write a letter supporting the project and co-location plans. The panel made no indication on its opinion regarding the proposal.