Schools chancellor comes to Sunnyside to discuss overcrowding and other topics at town hall

Farina at D24
Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited P.S. 199 in Sunnyside for a town hall meeting on Oct. 19 to discuss topics concerning parents and students across School District 24 ranging from overcrowding to ways to help students deal with the stress of school.

During the town hall, Fariña fielded questions from members of the Community Education Council 24 (CEC24) as well as parents of students in a District 24 school.

One of the major problems facing District 24 is the severe overcrowding of schools within the district, as it is consistently named one of the most, if not the most, overcrowded school districts in the entire city.

A local parent asked Fariña what can be done to assist students currently enrolled in overcrowded schools, noting that building new facilities would not help those that are in overcrowded schools right now.

“We look at every school individually,” Fariña said.

What the Department of Education (DOE) looks for on a school-by-school basis, she said, is the ratio of students to teachers, and how many spaces are being used for offices versus classrooms inside the schools.

The chancellor also pointed out that she works closely with Lorraine Grillo, president of the School Construction Authority (SCA), to find locations for new schools to accommodate the abundance of students in District 24.

Another parent asked the chancellor if she supported bringing yoga and meditation into schools as a way to expand social and emotional learning for students.

“I absolutely support anything that releases the stress that people are under day-to-day,” Fariña said. “This includes the adults as well as the students.”

Parents are even now asking for parent workshops on yoga, zumba, and other stress-relieving activities for students, the educator said, noting that a high school in Queens is home to a meditation room.

“If you have a place to go to when you’re feeling [stressed] or you when you feel you need just to take a few breaths, that will help,” Fariña added. “The other thing I’m finding that helps, believe it or not, but we’re doing some research on this: beanbags.”

According to her research, sitting in a beanbag has a way of relaxing the body the way sitting in other seats cannot, she said.

Fariña also touched on topics about helping guidance counselors and teachers to help students and their families to have discussions on serious topics that could be affecting children.

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