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Queens Chronicle

PS 143 parents talk overcrowding with Chancellor Walcott

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 1:56 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

The Department of Education is seeking more land to help alleviate major overcrowding at PS 143 in Corona.

“We desperately want to find land,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told about 100 parents on Monday night, adding he would let them know about additional space in three weeks.

The story of PS 143, an elementary school at 34-74 113 St., is of a plight facing many of the schools in District 24 — too many students and not enough seats.

The building is listed to occupy about 1,200 students, but during the last decade the school has swelled to nearly 1,800.

Parents spoke at the meeting of 9:30 a.m. lunches and leaky transportable units.

“How can our children learn in such crowded spaces?” asked parent Angelica Saldado. “There is a high dropout rate here. How are we going to fix this if the students don’t have a good beginning?”

To accommodate the population the Department of Education leases space for 250 PS 143 students from the Christ Greek Orthodox Church at 98-07 38 Ave.

But the agreement may end soon.

The church, which is 1.5 miles from PS 143, is applying with the state to stop leasing the building to the DOE and instead start a K-5 Greek charter school. Walcott said he had no authority to stop anyone’s application for a charter.

For 25 years the school has used Parks Department land to house portable classrooms to also battle overcrowding.

Parents asked why the DOE couldn’t purchase the land and build a permanent structure.

“When you get parkland you must find replacement parkland,” Walcott said, adding that’s what would make it difficult.

Families in the audience held signs, many that addressed the trailers: “Portable units shouldn’t be permanent” and “Portable conditions: There are openings and outside there were animals found in the boys bathrooms. e.g. rats and possums.”

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Corona) is working to schedule a meeting with the PS 143 Parent Teacher Association, Parks, the DOE and the School Construction Authority to discuss the land.

Some land that may be easier to buy is a parking lot at 50-51 98th Street owned by Verizon. According to Ferreras, a deal that would house a K-8 800-student school is under negotiations.

“The overcrowding at PS 143 is an issue that not only affects our students who are attending the school, but also their teachers, parents and the greater community as a whole,” Ferreras said.

Three other K-5 schools will be opened in the neighborhood — PS 287, a 432-student school at 110-08 Northern Blvd. and PS 329 at 26-25 97 St. — will open in September. These will take some pressure off PS 143, especially PS 287. About 50 percent of its students were previously zoned for PS 143.

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