2011-12-21 / Front Page

Elected Officials Seek Construction Funding For P.S. 2, P.S. 11

By Richard Gentilviso

While supporting needs throughout District 30, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Assemblymember Catherine Nolan and state Senator Michael Gianaris spoke in support of  two especially beleaguered schools: P.S. 2, Jackson Heights and P.S. 11, Long Island City.

A large contingent of parents, students and staff from both schools were present at the December 15 meeting of Community District Education Council 30 held at P.S. 212 in Jackson Heights as representatives from the School Construction Authority (SCA) presented proposals of an amended five-year $11.1 billion capital plan. The budget restores $1.75 billion cut in January and is close to the originally proposed $11.3 billion in funding. But the November amendment reduced funding for some new school construction in favor of replacement and upkeep of existing infrastructure.

Van Bramer said a previously approved plan to expand P.S. 11, the Kathryn M. Phelan School, located at 54-24 Skillman Ave., was not included in the amendment. “A very much needed expansion was in the plan and now it’s not in the plan,” he said. “We need the SCA to put P.S. 11 back in the plan or to propose other alternatives.”

Nolan, chair of the Assembly Education Committee,  echoed that sentiment, saying she “strongly urged [SCA] to place the [P.S. 11] annex  back into the capital plan”, in a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott that was read at the hearing by a representative.

At P.S. 2, the Alfred Zimberg School, located at 75-10 21st Ave., SCA funding for “extraordinarily necessary and significant capital improvements” is needed, according to a letter by Gianaris to District 30 Superintendent Dr. Philip Composto, also read by a representative.

A “temporary” modular unit has been in use at P.S. 2 for 15 years. “P.S. 2 is functioning well over the capacity it was originally designed to accommodate”, leading to unsafe conditions, Gianaris said in his letter.  “Astoundingly, P.S. 2 has no auditorium.” A gym serves that purpose as well as its designed function. A ‘temporary’ modular unit is in use at P.S. 11, too. “We have mold, leaks and rotted flooring,” a speaker said. The school now has more than 1,300 children in classes that have been halved to accommodate them. “We desperately need room,” the P.S. 11 UFT chapter leader said.

“P.S. 11 is at 120 percent capacity, way over where they need to be,” Van Bramer said. “We need an answer for P.S. 11.”

Gianaris asked that the continued efforts of parents and students at P.S. 2 to provide their children the highest level of enrichment be recognized with support from the SCA “to ensure that the safety of our children remains a top priority”.

District 30 is projected to gain 2,963 new seats under the five-year plan, although the SCA acknowledges the need for another 1,378 seats for which there is currently no funding.

Class sizes have increased in all grades throughout the city, according to data released by the DOE in November. The increase, for the fourth straight year, represents an average gain of almost one student per class in every elementary school.

The city has received almost $2 billion since 2007 to lower class sizes as a settlement of the Campaign For Fiscal Equity lawsuit and CDEC 30 passed a resolution in November calling on the DOE to use those funds to lower class size.

The 2011-12 school year is the last year of the Campaign For Fiscal Equity plan, “and yet, classes are far larger than before”, according to Leonie Hamison of Class Size Matters, a non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for information on class size and the proven benefits of smaller classes.

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