BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Parents, teachers and students continue to struggle with the overcrowding at schools in District 24, more specifically at PS 143 in Corona.
The Louis Armstrong School is meant for about 1,000 students but it has more than 1,800 students enrolled.After being in correspondence with State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), the Dept. of Education has acknowledged the overcrowding and is working towards a solution.
In a letter sent to the DOE last spring, Peralta said in order to accommodate all of the students, they have to use a mini-building, transportables and off-site buildings.
“The transportables and mini-building are not in optimal condition,” Peralta said. “The buildings are in constant need of repair, including a flooding situation in one of the classrooms in the mini-building.”
Peralta proposes a new permanent school be built on the site where the mini-building and transportables are located to alleviate the overcrowding problem.
Angelica Salgado, a mother of two children at PS 143 and a member of the School Leadership team, said “There is no room at the main building.”
“The situation is that a school with a separate building does not work the same, even if there is an assistant principal there,” she said.
Since her son Pablo Ramirez, 5, spends his school days at the annex building, she understands the difficulties he faces when walking back and forth from the main building to the annex, especially during the cold, winter days.
“All the children have to go back and forth from the main building to the portables to have breakfast and lunch. In this weather, I feel really bad for the little children,” she said.
Peralta echoed similar concerns in the letter written to the DOE.
“Safety and security are a major concern,” he said. “Students from the mini-building have to walk from their classrooms to the main building for lunch or other school related activities, exposing them to outside situations that may arise.”
Some other concerns Salgado mentioned were not enough space for all of the students to take part in physical activities and the lack of attention teachers pay to each individual student in an overcrowded classroom.
“Our classrooms have 32 and some have 34 students,” she said. “With so many students, our children won’t get the same attention.”
In a letter sent to Peralta, signed by Schools Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm in late November, it states that the DOE acknowledges the overcrowding in District 24 is a challenge.
“We agree that one potential solution to the overcrowding at PS 143 would be to build a permanent addition on the site where the mini-building and the temporary classroom units are currently located,” Grimm said.
It goes on to say, since the land is owned by the Dept. of Parks, the DOE has to make a visit with both agencies on site to discuss the potential to build an addition on that property.
Till then, the DOE will continue to maintain and repair the mini-building and the temporary classroom units as best as they can, until a site is organized.
Since PS 330 in Elmhurst opened its doors in Sept., the DOE did put into effect a new zone that was approved by the Community Education Council, which was aimed to reduce the zone size of PS 143. According to the capital plan for 2015-19, seven new school buildings will be constructed in D24, for a total of 4,045 seats.
The letter also states that it has leased a new annex space for PS 143 in the Transfiguration building, located at 98-07 38th Ave., Corona.
As of now, DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg said, “We are in discussions about exploring an addition in place of the mini building.”
Dept. of Parks spokesperson Zachary Feder said the use of this land is being discussed with the DOE.
Peralta said the DOE and Parks Dept. “need to make this happen for the sake of the kids of this community.”
“Rezoning plans amount to games of musical chairs and temporary units are never temporary and certainly aren’t an option worthy of our children,” he added.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.