BY JOE MARVILLI
As the Latino population continues to grow in Corona, it faces a huge educational difficulty: overcrowding.
In the area covered by Community Education Council 24, which includes Corona and Elmhurst, overcrowding in elementary and middle schools is rampant. Although many are working to resolve or lessen this problem, the challenge in CEC 24 is one of the biggest in the Borough.
According to the U.S. Census, the population of Community Board 4, which covers Corona and Elmhurst, grew from 167,005 to 172,598. Outside of the Rockaways, this 3.3 percent jump was the biggest out of Queens’ Community Boards. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the overcrowding situation continued to worsen as more and more families flocked to the area.
“District 24 has a lot of diversity so it welcomes lots of immigrant families,” Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said. “It didn’t happen overnight. It crept up and our Dept. of Education should be focusing on how to mitigate these issues.”
Since CB4 has the largest increase in population in Queens, with minimal municipal space for new schools, CEC 24 is the most overcrowded section in Queens. According to the School Construction Authority’s Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Report for 2012-2013, there is an enrollment capacity of 36,704 students in CEC 24. However, there are 41,544 students attending schools in the district. These additional 4,840 students put CEC 24 at 113 percent capacity.
Several of these schools are a few percentage points over their limit. PS 12 is at 150 percent capacity. It has a maximum of 853 students, but its enrollment is 1,280. PS 16’s capacity is 1,142, but it has 1,627 students, putting it at 142 percent capacity. At PS 89, there are 1,966 students, but the building fits 1,318 students, putting it at 149 percent capacity.
Many of these schools have taken to teaching students in trailers or mini-buildings to handle the extra numbers. According to Ferreras, the school lunch schedules are out of control as well, with some students having lunch as early as 10 a.m. so the school can accommodate everyone.
The councilwoman said that the SCA has worked with her to place six new schools in her district. PS 329, at 26-25 97th St., PS 287, at 110th Street and Northern Boulevard, PS 315, at 96-12 43rd Ave., IS 311, at 97-36 43rd Ave., PS 298, at 50-51 98th St., and PS 92, at 99-01 34th Ave., would lessen the problem. However, this relief would still leave the area more than 1,000 seats short.
She added that the agency should include further improvement efforts for CEC 24 and 30 in its five-year plan.
“Nobody’s education experience should be in a trailer. It shouldn’t be in a mini-building. No child should have lunch at 10 in the morning. We want to provide healthy and safe environments for all of our children to learn,” she said. “PS 19 has eight trailers. We need to eliminate that and create a new wing.”
Despite the difficulties, Ferreras said her office is available to help any residents of her district with education issues. She also complimented the principals at her schools for their welcoming attitude towards new immigrant families. She added that the immigrants are ready to be active members in the community.
“They have done an amazing job incorporating new immigrants into their schools,” she said. “If you come to the PTA meetings, you would be amazed by the turnout. We’re talking 200 to 300 parents a night. They know their presence is important.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.