By Tom Momberg
Nearly 100 concerned parents and children rallied on 48th Street in Woodside Sunday to bring the area’s overcrowded school problem to the community’s attention and ask the city Department of Education to do something about it.
“We just need to let everyone know this problem exists, so we can start a community conversation around this and maybe ultimately pressure the city to build a middle school,” rally organizer Sean McGowan said.
McGowan is part of a grassroots organization called the Sunnyside Woodside Middle School Project, members of which are upset at the DOE and city School Construction Authority’s decision not to build an intermediate school in the area as they believe the agencies grossly underestimated the neighborhoods’ growth.
McGowan, who has a young daughter entering middle school, said the ongoing 600-seat addition to IS 125, 46-02 47th Ave., in school District 24 will not be enough to meet Woodside and Sunnyside’s needs as the neighborhoods undergo rapid development. IS 125 was at 110 percent of its enrollment capacity in 2013, the most recent data available from the DOE’s building utilization reports.
The DOE held a meeting with Sunnyside Woodside Middle School Project in February to console the members’ concerns and explain why a middle school was not needed.
The current $13.5 billion capital plan calls for a total of 1,900 new school seats in neighboring school District 30 over the next five years. The DOE said the plan also calls for a new 1,000-seat joint elementary and intermediate school somewhere in the district, in addition to the 12 existing public middle schools.
“Working closely with communities is key to strengthening our schools and ensuring our students thrive,” a DOE spokesman said in a statement. “We have committed to building over 1,900 new seats in District 30 alone, and we will continue to listen to families in the district — and across the city — to help address their needs.”
The Woodside Sunnyside Middle School Project has proposed the city transfer the city Department of Transportation’s 125,000-square-foot property, in front of which they rallied, into the hands of the SCA to build that proposed middle school.
In the meantime, McGowan said parents were told there were other options as Woodside and Sunnyside schools continue to be overfilled — that they could have their kids bused to Astoria schools, and that school rooms would be doubled up with classes, although the student-to-teacher ratio would remain constant.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb