Parents, students, educators and elected officials filled the auditorium of Maspeth’s P.S. 58 on Thursday night for a town hall meeting featuring Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña speaking out on issues facing School District 24.
The main concern for District 24 is that it is the most overcrowded school district in the entire city, with many schools operating above capacity, forcing many students to take classes in trailers.
“I know this district is definitely the most overcrowded in the city, and I have come to visit schools and I want to say once again, I can’t make magic happen overnight,” Fariña said. “One thing I can assure you is that even with the overcrowding, you have some phenomenal schools, phenomenal principals and that’s really the most important thing.”
Fariña said that she is committed to fixing the district’s overcrowding problem by finding permanent solutions, not just temporary fixes.
“We’re trying to look at long-term solutions,. We don’t want to do rubber stamping or just trying to put a rubber band on something or band-aid” Fariña said. “So we’re adding elementary school seats through construction projects. In the 2015-2019 capital plan, there is going to be new capacity for this portion of District 24, including an addition for P.S. 143 [in Corona].”
Building extensions at schools such P.S. 143 and others throughout the district will cause some displacement of students. In order to build the extensions, Fariña said, students cannot be at the location, causing some to be reseated at other schools for three years during the construction.
One parent asked Fariña how the Department of Education (DOE) is prioritizing physical activity with academic goals within the classroom, since many schools face a spacing issue.
“Every month, on one of the Mondays, we take all the PE [physical education] teachers from all over the boroughs over to the borough centers and they’re getting trained in ways they can go back to their schools and try new things,” Fariña said. “I can tell you it’s one of the areas that I know needs the most improvement in.”
Some of the things they are getting trained in is using tai chi in the classroom to increase students’ physical activity, Fariña explained. Another thing the DOE is trying to do is to work with the Parks Department to better use the city parks for students in a more formal way, as well as finding ways to use high school fields for other students who do not attend those high schools.