The fate of incoming PS 11 students has been decided but a rally was held Tuesday as a final attempt to persuade the Department of Education not to temporarily relocate students to PS 171 while construction on PS 11 is completed.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) was joined by state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywomen Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside) and Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and community members and parents in front of PS 11 located on the corner of 56th Street and Skillman Avenue in Woodside.
The elementary school is slated to have a mini-building erected by the 2015-16 school year where kindergarten students will have class. While the project is completed, the DOE will be busing students to PS 171 in Astoria, despite concerns from parents that it places a significant burden on them and their young children.
“I am truly disappointed the DOE has decided to move forward on a plan to bus kindergartners to a school almost three miles away, an extraordinary hardship for Woodside families,” Crowley said. “While the expansion of PS 11 is a crucial investment in our children’s education, we cannot allow its construction to displace our youngest students so far from home. I call on the DOE to reconsider their decision and find a creative solution to do right by these students and their families.”
PS 171 is a half-hour bus ride away from PS 11 and is more than seven blocks from the nearest subway station, something officials say is a large inconvenience for parents who may need to travel to school in case of an emergency.
“It is the responsibility of the Department of Education to hear the concerns of the parents and children of PS 11 in Woodside,” Van Bramer said. “The [DOE] decision to relocate over 230 kindergarten students to PS 171 in Astoria will disrupt the lives of countless families.
“I strongly urge the [DOE] to reconsider ... parents believe this is the best option for their children, and I highly recommend the [DOE] re-evaluate their decision.”
While electeds acknowledge that the extension, once it is built, will be a much welcomed addition to Woodside, many called the DOE irresponsible for its relocation plan.
“This decision is a cruel and heartless one,” Markey said. “It seems impossible to me that after we called it to their attention that the DOE is deliberately choosing to send the youngest PS 11 children on a three-mile bus ride at rush hour in their first year at school. All of us join with the parents to plead once again for the chancellor to intervene and to reconsider this ill-advised busing plan and find alternative spaces for these young PS 11 children closer to home.”
Locations like local libraries — the closest of which is only a block or two from the school — have been thrown out by parents and electeds as suitable venues for temporary relocation.
The DOE shows no intention of reneging on its decision and did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
Once the building is completed, it will once again house several kindergarten classes.