After an objection from parents, elected officials are stepping in to ask the Department of Education to reconsider its PS 11 plan.
To combat the overcrowding of schools in the area, the School Construction Authority announced that it would build a new school in Woodside and add on to PS 11 on Skillman Avenue.
But the otherwise celebrated plan upset parents when they learned some of their children would be bused to a temporary location in Astoria while PS 11’s mini-building expansion is completed.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens), Assemblywomen Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside) and Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) and state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) wrote a letter to the DOE of their shared concern with “the psychological effects on the incoming kindergarten class” since they could potentially attend three different schools in three consecutive years.
“While the expansion of PS 11 in Woodside is a necessary investment in our children’s education, we need to ensure that its construction is as least disruptive as possible to our families,” Crowley said. “I urge the Department of Education to work with the parents in our community in finding a suitable location for their children that is closer to home.”
Originally, the SCA was going to wait until the new PS 339, less than half a mile away from PS 11, was built and co-locate the kindergarten students there while the annex is constructed.
“The DOE has taken a giant step in the fight against school overcrowding with this planned expansion, but rather than ruin a good thing, we should work together towards a solution that will give our children the learning experience they deserve without forcing them to travel miles to get it,” Gianaris said.
Martin Connolly, whose children attend PS 11, was one of the first parents to call out the DOE and elected officials for the updated plan. He had parents sign a petition against the co-location.
“Hopefully this will bring some attention to the need to find a better plan for swing-space during construction at PS 11,” Connolly said. “It is great to have a representative who actually follows through and takes action. Whatever the outcome, such support is appreciated.”
The DOE has not indicated any changes to the latest plan and if Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a does not respond to the elected officials’ request, the work will continue as planned and the 4- and 5-year-olds will complete their first year of school in Astoria.
“We plead with the Department of Education to reconsider this busing plan and look closer to home for alternative space for these young PS 11 children,” Markey said. “A 3-mile bus ride at rush hour is no way for children to begin their first year in school. The entire school community is delighted that the DOE is finally moving forward with this long-awaited construction, but there must be a better alternative location for these kindergartners.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said several weeks ago that he would do his best to address the concerns Connolly and other PS 11 parents have but did not sign the letter.