City’s Five Year Plan: Rebuilding The Future Of Queens Schools
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (center), Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (right) and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott (left) released their five-year plan for the school system this week, and Queens is set to get 27 new schools.
Tribune Photo by Shams Tarek
By Shams Tarek
Things at P.S. 11 in Woodside are a lot like most public schools in the borough and across the city.
They’re not looking good.
P.S. 11, filled to 122 percent capacity, is crowded enough for kids to get fewer resources than promised to them, and the building is in bad shape.
Kids can’t play in the schoolyard because there are eight mobile classrooms, or transportable classroom units, parked there to help alleviate the overcrowding. There’s a huge sinkhole in whatever’s left of the open asphalt.
Shower rooms with sloped floors are used as classrooms, and locker rooms and closets are used to store supplies. Some urinals have not been working for three years, and tiles have fallen in one of the mobile classrooms.
Last week, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Council Education Chair Eva Moskowitz and P.S. 11 alum-turned Councilmember Eric Goia called on the mayor to allocate $12.8 billion in the city’s 2005-2009 capital plan for schools during a visit to P.S. 11.
This week, during a visit to another Queens school – the at capacity P.S. 234 in Astoria – Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein revealed their long-awaited plan to the public – a plan that must be approved by the City Council for the first time in history.
The Plan In Brief
The mayor’s 2005-2009 capital plan for the city’s public schools is an ambitious one, broader in scope and finer in detail than any such plan that preceded it. Combined with annual amendments and its need for City Council approval, it’s a dynamic budget that’s expected to serve local, changing needs better than ever.
The 260-page plan, available for downloading at the Department of Education (DOE) website at www.nycenet.edu, identifies specific new school projects, by school district for the entire five years, and specific renovation projects by building for the first two years.
The five-year budget was drafted in the context of a 10-year needs assessment, an approach that the DOE says addresses real demographic shift rather than short-term anomalies in population. While student enrollment is expected to drop over the next 10 years, according to the DOE, high school enrollment will increase until mid-decade.
The plan makes grand promises, like the eventual removal of all mobile classrooms and mini-schools over 20 years old in the city. It also promises to reduce class size in every city classroom between kindergarten and the third grade.
The plan allocates $4 billion for the creation of 76 new schools, including 27 in Queens. It allocates $4.6 billion for the restructuring and improving of 671 struggling schools and the creation, among them, of 50 new charter schools. It also allocates $4.5 billion for building renovations, repairs and programs.
Overcrowding in Queens
Queens schools, on the whole, are the most overcrowded in the entire city.
A report released by the City Council last week reported that 34 percent of the city’s elementary schools – and 36 percent of its middle schools – are at or above capacity are in Queens.
Queens high schools also have the highest net overcrowding in the city, with capacity at 114 percent.
Queens’ New Schools
Queens got more new schools in the mayor’s five-year plan than any other borough; the 27 new schools slated for Queens represent 36 percent of all the new schools in the city and equal 22,274 seats.
The Queens schools include 18 new buildings and nine new schools in existing leased buildings. Four of the new buildings and two of the new leases are going to be for high schools.
But the entire borough doesn’t have reason to celebrate. Two of Queens’ seven school districts, Flushing-based District 25 and Southeast Queens’ District 29, don’t have any new schools slated for them at all.
While District 25 is considered one of the least crowded districts in the city—only a third of its students were in schools that exceeded capacity last year—District 29 is one of the more crowded.
Councilman Leroy Comrie, a former school board member who represents the neighborhoods of District 29, “I’m not happy with it. I don’t understand how a district that’s overcrowded doesn’t get a new school in five years.”
–Azi Paybarah contributed to this story