District 30 CEC discusses enrollment options for new middle school coming to Sunnyside

District 30 CEC discusses enrollment in Sunnyside school
District 30 Community Education Council Zoning Committee discusses enrollment options for Sunnyside Middle School. (Photo via Zoom)

The District 30 Community Education Council (CEC) held a virtual Zoning Committee meeting Wednesday, June 8, to discuss the enrollment options for Sunnyside Middle School, located at 38-04 48th St., which is set to accept students starting next fall. 

The committee, along with Department of Education representatives, District 30 (D 30) superintendent and parent representatives, reached out to the community during Wednesday night’s meeting to learn what they think the best and fairest way to enroll students is. 

The Q429 middle school on the corner of Barnett Avenue and 48th Street in Sunnyside is still under construction after facing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school is set to open in September of 2023 with five stories and 725 seats.

The committee discussed the two main options for admitting students into the middle school: zoned and geographic priority.

Re-zoning would create a “zoned school,” giving priority to residents within the defined geographic area; students within this designated zone would be entitled to a seat at the new middle school. On the other hand, geographic priority would not guarantee a seat, but gives students closest to the school the best chance to attend. 

Though Q429 could serve over 700 students, there are about 1,100 middle school-aged kids living in the area.

According to DOE representative, Reba Lichtenstein, the DOE recommended that the school start off as a geographic priority to determine the need in the district before going through the whole process of re-zoning, which would require a vote from the CEC 30 Zoning Committee.

“If we start with geographic priority it gives us more data to see who exercises that priority, what the impact is on the other area middle schools, so that ultimately if we were to pursue a rezoning, we can be much more confident with the zone size,” Lichtenstein said.

District 30 CEC discusses enrollment in Sunnyside school
Area currently zoned to a middle school in Woodside. (Map courtesy of DOE)

If the DOE were to rezone without learning more about the needs of the community, Lichtenstein fears potentially excluding a group of students in D 30 looking to attend the middle school.

This school was built after the community made its needs clear. D 30 parents have been rallying since 2014 to add a new middle school amid school overcrowding concerns in Sunnyside and Woodside.

Ross Riley, a P.S. 150 parent who lives down the street from Q429, said he prefers zoning over geographic priority due to the obvious accessibility to the new middle school. 

“My son would have to potentially cross Queens Boulevard as opposed to going to a school that’s less than a block away,” Riley said. 

CEC member Deborah Alexander said that she pushed for this school to be a “zoned school.” However, her impression is that Sunnyside Middle School will likely accept students through geographic priority. 

“No one wanted this school to be a zoned school more than I did. I fought for this school for many years,” Alexander said. “The problem we face right now is that everyone around the geographic area is going to say, ‘I have an entitlement to this school.’ The reality is [the school] happened to be located there and could have been built anywhere.

“It hurts me to think about zoning out those families — it feels like a bad move for the community and I hate it.”

In the future, there will be further public outreach to hear from the community about design options, programming and more. The DOE is also still determining whether or not to remove grade six from P.S. 11 and P.S. 150 since the new middle school may satisfy those needs.

The structure, previously a two-story vacant lot, was once listed as a state historic preservation site, which stirred up community concerns to maintain the building back in 2016. The building was constructed in the 1920s as a parking garage by award-winning architect Clarence Stein, who designed Sunnyside Gardens.