Parents call it the “Jewel of Bayside,” or perhaps more specifically, it’s a sapphire.
The pale brick building on the east side of Springfield Boulevard, blends in with the college and high school it sits adjacent to, but inside the structure is an institution of learning that has gotten the attention of education officials right up to those in Washington, DC, who awarded it a prestigious honor this year.
PS 203, the Oakland Gardens School, is the second home for 862 children from pre-K through fifth grade. This year, it received a Blue Ribbon award, an honor from the U.S. Department of Education that students and staffers celebrated last Thursday in a school assembly, which included songs and speeches and proclamations from local officials.
The school received the award from the U.S. DOE in September — one of five schools in the city and two in Queens to get the award. PS 191 in Floral Park was also awarded a Blue Ribbon.
The award is given to schools with “significant achievement” in academics. Only 269 schools in the country received the honor.
“To be named a Blue Ribbon school is to join a special elite group,” said PS 203’s principal, Carol Nussbaum. “That is a really big wow!”
Outside the Oakland Gardens School, a banner flapped in the wind, announcing the recognition. Inside, students and teachers wore blue shirts with the name of the school and its recognition as a “National School of Excellence.” The students even gave a shirt to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott who proudly donned it over his suit.
“The students in this school will be prepared for life to be productive adults and make this city and country a better place,” Walcott said to the assembly.
Anita Saunders, superintendent of District 26, noted that the Blue Ribbon award is not an easy thing to achieve.
“To be recognized as a Blue Ribbon school is the result of years of excellence,” she said.
The students treated their guests to a program featuring dancing and singing to a number of “blue” songs including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Blue Velvet” and “I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee).” The pupils closed their program with a performance of the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School,” expressing their school spirit. Music was arranged by a band of PS 203 teachers.
Comptroller John Liu, himself an alumnus of PS 203, said winning the Blue Ribbon was “no small feat” for the school.
“This shows how much their hard work has paid off,” he said.
State Sens. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside), as well as Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and representatives of Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and the U.S. Department of Education were also present.
For students, the morning assembly was a good chance for them to show their pride.
“What this means is that now everyone knows what us kids here have been saying for years. This school is amazing,” said Student Organization President Lance James.
Past Queens schools to receive Blue Ribbon awards include PS 41 and PS 159 in Bayside, PS 173 in Fresh Meadows, PS/IS 178 in Jamaica Estates and Transfiguration Roman Catholic School in Corona.