To fulfill the demanding need for more primary school seats in northeastern Queens, the School Construction Authority is looking at four locations to build new schools.
The SCA expects there to be 20,494 K-5 students in Community School District 25 by 2026, a 41.5 percent increase from the number of students enrolled during the 2018-19 academic year. The existing 19 primary schools within the district would not be able to accommodate the growing number, so the city is looking at locations in Whitestone, College Point and Murray Hill to meet the demand.
A 44,000-square-foot vacant lot at the corner of Water’s Edge Drive and 24th Avenue in Bayside has progressed to public review. The design process has not yet begun, but the building will host approximately 572 seats and is expected to be operational in five years.
“We have presented the proposed site to the local [Community Education Council] and will also be meeting with the community board on June 16 to solicit feedback,” SCA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz told the Chronicle via email. “We welcome comments from any member of the community. In addition, we welcome submissions of alternative locations for this school that will provide much-needed seats to this overcrowded district.”
Ortiz said comments on the proposed site, as well as alternative sites, are always accepted via email at email@example.com.
Despite the open-door policy, some community members felt as through they were not involved in the site-picking process until after it was already chosen, according to City Council candidate Richard Lee.
“I would say when the document came out was when the community heard it for the first time. There was no public discourse process for the community to get involved,” said Lee, referring to the SCA’s notice of filing, which was released June 3.
Though Lee said the community was generally responsive to the idea of new schools being built, residents wanted to be more involved with the choosing process.
As opposed to choosing vacant lots or demolishing existing buildings to build new schools, Lee said there is an opportunity to save money and resources by repurposing St. Agnes High School in College Point, which is slated to shut down this month. The already existing academic building could accommodate about 280 students in a neighborhood that Lee says often gets left behind.
In College Point, the SCA is exploring 114-01 14 Ave., now a real estate office, as a potential site.
Jennifer Shannon, president of A Better College Point Civic Association, agreed that neighborhood kids are often forced to travel farther from home for school, especially for older students — there’s only one middle school in the area, but no high schools. Rather than search for more primary schools, Shannon hopes the city will turn its attention to its older students.
“Historically, everyone had to leave College Point for school. Parents don’t even have the option,” said Shannon, who went to Whitesone for junior high. “It would have been nice to go to school near home.”