Built nearly a decade ago to alleviate overcrowding, the three-story brick schoolhouse in Middle Village that P.S./I.S. 128 occupies finds itself bursting at the seams with students.
The population of the full elementary school, which includes the schoolhouse adjacent to 69th Place opened in 2009 as well as an annex across the street, is now at 123 percent capacity, according to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
Crowley announced on Wednesday that the School Construction Authority (SCA) will conduct a feasibility study on potentially building an extension to the six-year-old structure, perhaps in the playground of the block-long campus. This comes after the SCA abandoned, at Crowley’s behest, plans to construct a self-standing universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) center within the playground.
“Since opening in 2009, P.S./I.S. 128 could not contain its student population, forcing kids to use the annex across the street,” Crowley said in a statement. “I have continually called attention to the need for new schools and more education space in my district, and P.S./I.S. 128 was not provided the proper amount of seats from its inception.”
Before the new school opened in September 2009, P.S./I.S. 128 was primarily housed in a one-story schoolhouse that was subsequently demolished to make way for the new school’s playground. Though it was originally an elementary school from kindergarten through fifth grade, the institution expanded to the eighth grade once the new building opened.
To Nick Comaianni, president of the Community Education Council of District 24, the need for an extension at P.S./I.S. 128 is not surprising. He recalled that the council, when the construction of the new P.S./I.S. 128 and other local school improvements were in the planning stages more than a decade ago, implored the SCA and Department of Education to add seats as it added grades to the school.
“Once you make it a K-to-8, the population will increase,” he remembered telling them. “They said, ‘We’re not going to worry about it,’ which I thought was very foolish, and it wound up being foolish, because that’s what happened at P.S./I.S. 128.”
“They built it too small,” Comaianni added. “Back then, we objected, and now it’s the ‘I-told-you-so’ factor. But that doesn’t do anything because we need the seats.”
Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano indicated the advisory body would monitor the situation, but expressed concern about an extension being erected in the P.S./I.S. 128 schoolyard, as it may deprive children of an adequate recreational space.
“I can certainly understand why one of those options [for alleviating overcrowding] would be to consider building an addition adjacent to the existing school,” he said. “Unfortunately, that may mean they don’t have any playground adjacent to the school, and I think it’s very healthy [for the students] to have a playground there.”