Representatives from the School Construction Authority (SCA) and Department of Education (DOE) attended the meeting along with community board members and interested residents. This is the second conference the councilman has held on the subject.
Discussion revolved around plans for the future of the new school, with the SCA made several commitments to increase community input and encourage civic participation in the school’s installation.
Although the contract between the SCA and the Bayside Jewish Center has already been signed, the SCA vowed that the community will be able to determine what type of programs the school will provide. This could include specialized programs and areas of study otherwise uncommon in northeast Queens.
The SCA and Vallone’s office will build a group of community stakeholders to gather input on which specialized programs the school will host.
The SCA also committed to take the context of the neighborhood into consideration with regards to the immediate area’s residential character. This had led to concessions on the size and scale of school to minimize the impact on the community of mostly single-family homes.
Additionally, an environmental impact study slated to start during the summer was pushed back after concerns that it would be more accurate if conducted during the school year.
Vallone said that although the school site selection process has historically lacked transparency, the commitments the SCA and DOE have made to date are significant steps towards improving community engagement.
“I don’t think anyone supports the SCA’s site selection process, a process that clearly needs to be changed,” said Vallone. “However, our continuing community engagement forums will ensure that our community’s voices are heard and that we play an integral role in our children’s educational future.”
DOE spokesman Jason Fink said that the SCA is fully cooperating with residents and everyone else who might be affected by the incoming school.
“As we continue our effort to reduce school overcrowding in Queens and throughout our city, we are fully engaging our partners to ensure ongoing dialogue on all aspects of this project as we move forward.”