By Bill Parry
Students at one Corona school will finally get relief from years of chronic overcrowding.
Cheers erupted from more than a hundred parents in the PS 143 auditorium as plans were unveiled last week to build a 98,000-square-foot annex for nearly 1,000 students. It will replace decades-old classroom trailers located in the surrounding area as well as a mini-building and an annex on 98th Street.
“Like I said many times, no child, no child, should be educated in a trailer, and I hope once this project is completed, overcrowding at PS 143 will just be a chapter of its history,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said March 15. “Almost 1,000 new seats to replace the mini building and the rundown trailers will help our students learn in the environment they deserve. It will give them a better opportunity to succeed.”
According to a 2015 report by Make the Road New York, District 24 is one of the most overcrowded in New York City “with a shortfall of thousands of seats.” The new five-story building will have a capacity for 980 students, new science laboratories, art and music rooms and a large cafeteria.
“This brand new, state-of-the-art addition builds on our continued collaboration with local leaders to address overcrowding in School District 24,” School Construction Authority President and CEO Lorraine Grillo said. “We are thrilled to construct a beautiful and modern learning environment for the PS 143 students to grow and thrive in and looking forward to bringing 980 new seats to Corona as fast as possible.”
PS 143, also known as the Louis Armstrong School, was built to accommodate only 900 students and currently enrolls nearly 1,800. The new annex will be constructed on land owned by the city Parks Department at 113th Street and 34th Avenue.
“Parks is happy that we were able to work with the School Construction Authority to design a solution that allows the school to expand, while also improving the recreational amenities in Louis Armstrong Park,” Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said.
About 200 first-grade students are educated in the six trailers. Peralta first proposed the idea of building a permanent annex to PS 143 in March 2013 to then-Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
“This is a victory for schoolkids, and I want to thank the parents, PS 143 and the community for their tireless efforts to bring about this project,” Peralta said. “Our schoolchildren need this. Our schoolchildren deserve it.”
The permanent annex is slated to open in September 2020.
“We are very happy with this news, news about the construction of the new addition, and this wouldn’t have happened without the help from Senator Peralta,” PS 143 PTA President Angelica Salgado said. “He pushed for this project since the beginning.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr