Room at last: Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows breaks ground on new 500-plus seat expansion

Photo by Carlotta Mohamed/QNS

The most overcrowded high school in all of New York City, right here in Queens, is finally getting more space.

Come September 2021 students, parents and faculty at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows will celebrate the completion of a new state-of-the-art, 555-seat annex.

Francis Lewis High School Principal David Marmor joined the New York City School Construction Authority and Department of Education officials on May 30 for a special ground-breaking ceremony marking the beginning of the new expansion.

The annex will reduce overcrowding at Francis Lewis and will be fully accessible, air-conditioned, and will include at least 18 new instructional spaces. Other amenities will include a culinary arts room, a science lab, a hydroponic greenhouse, locker rooms and a multi-purpose room.

“This new annex will provide much-needed relief for the students and staff at Francis Lewis and is a vital part of the SCA’s efforts to provide over 5,300 high school seats to Queens by 2023,” said Lorraine Grillo, president and chief executive officer of the New York City SCA. “The collaboration and effort that it took on the part of so many individuals, stakeholders and elected officials to respond to the unprecedented development and growth that we see all around us is truly groundbreaking.”

With a total number of 4,500 students (over 200 percent capacity), Francis Lewis has maintained a high level of academic excellence despite the overcrowding conditions, said Marmor.

Francis Lewis High School Principal David Marmor. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

“This new annex will allow our school to have more programming flexibility along with providing our students with a 21st-century learning environment. I really do believe our science research kids are going to create some incredible discoveries in the new lab,” said Marmor. “On top of that, the greenhouse is going to be able to produce herbs and vegetables that will go straight from the greenhouse into the culinary kitchen where the kids will be able to cook, serve and eat fresh produce in a way that would not be possible without the hydroponic greenhouse.”

The new building will also mark the end of students attending classes in portable trailers in the field leaving quite a few options of how to utilize the space. The field — complete with a track and sports facilities in need of repair — may be part of the renovation eventually, with additional plans to create a JROTC training facility on the property, said Marmor.

“We have the largest, most accomplished JROTC program in the country with over 800 students participating,” said Marmor. “In order for them to compete nationally with schools that are in more rural areas with space, we want to provide our JROTC kids with a proper training facility.”

Councilman Peter Koo, who contributed funding for the project, said the new expansion was desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding in the school.

“I was happy to contribute funding to this important expansion, and I’d like to thank Principal Marmor and his staff, the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority for their commitment to ensuring Francis Lewis High School students have the resources they need to succeed,” said Koo.

Additionally, as part of the SCA’s Public Art for Public Schools program, permanent public artwork will be included in the new building.

The artist selected, Bryan Zanisnik, was commissioned under the Public Art for Public Schools “Sites for Students” program for which he will conduct a series of student workshops in conjunction with his new artwork. The artwork will be in the multi-purpose room on the second floor, which the school plans to use as a “restaurant” eating area for culinary students, as well as a gathering area for special events.

Instruction will not be interrupted during construction of the annex.