Trailers coming to PS 144

By Gabriel Rom

PS 144 in Forest Hills will be using trailers for additional teaching space for its pre-K center this coming academic year. One trailer will accommodate two pre-K sections totaling 56 seats, according to Jason Fink, spokesman at the Department of Education.

The problem of overcrowding has been persistent for School District 28, which includes Forest Hills and stretches down to Jamaica.

“The trailers that are being implemented are not long-term solutions,” said Michael Cohen, a spokesman for City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). “We just don’t have an educational infrastructure.”

The shuttered Parkway Hospital was floated as a possible location for a school, but the DOE rejected the plans.

In May, PS 144 located at 93-02 69th Ave added 50 extra kindergarten seats.

“There is a real crisis with respect to kindergarten seats and so they were created at the expense of pre-K seats,” Cohen said.

In April, Koslowitz, with several borough lawmakers sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Fariña, requesting that the DOE “immediately and publicly outline its plans to implement a kindergarten building capacity plan placement system that will adapt to the growing need for kindergarten seats in our community. Those plans must prioritize keeping pre-K children inside schools they are already attending, and ensure that there is no adverse effect on the current curriculum, activities or use of space.”

Elementary schools in the district have a utilization rate of 98 percent on average—middle schools 94.5 percent, both of which are above the citywide average.

As of 2012-2013, according to the DOE, there were at least 241 elementary and middle school students in trailers within District 28.

“In general, we are seeing a worsening space crunch throughout the city,” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters.

“I don’t think the School Construction Authority has a handle on how many pre-K students are in need of space,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who represents School District 24, the most overcrowded in the city. “They are taking gyms and turning them into classrooms,”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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