Thursday, August 27, 2009

City Prepares to Open Eight New Schools in Queens

Overcrowded Dist 24 Gets Bulk of Projects

By Conor Greene

The city School Construction Authority is set to open 23 new facilities around the city this fall, including eight in Queens. Locally, officials and parents of children within District 24 hope five projects in that area will bring relief to the area’s overcrowded schools, as the city prepares to add 3,000 seats to the area over the next two years.

Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24, said the amount of money the city is dedicating to the area is a major victory, but stresses that overcrowding conditions still exist throughout the district. “Getting all these seats is very important and is definitely going to alleviate a lot of overcrowding, but we’re still overcrowded,” he said. “We managed to get one-third of the entire budget in Queens put into District 24. For me, that was a big accomplishment for myself and my fellow board members.”

Despite the progress, the area still needs additional seats, especially on the high school level, that are zoned for local students. “That’s one of the things we’re missing,” he said, noting that 500 seats in the new Metropolitan Avenue complex have been set aside for District 24 students. “We did an excellent job. That’s what happens when you work together with the local elected officials and the community education council – you get things done,” added Comaianni.

This marks the “most ambitious school construction program in the city’s history, and Queens has already started to see this investment pay off,” said DOE spokesman Will Havemann, adding that the five new buildings in District 24 will help “alleviate elementary school overcrowding.” By 2012, the city will also have opened close to 10,000 new high school seats across the borough, he added.

“Ensuring that students have the opportunity to go to school in uncrowded, state-of-the-art facilities is one of our top priorities, and we worked hard in Queens and across the city to make sure that tour school construction efforts keep pace with students demand,” said Havemann.

The following is a glance at each of the local projects, as provided by the School Construction Authority. On Tuesday, a Department of Education official told CEC 24 members that all of the buildings are slated to open on time for the start of the school year.

At PS/IS 49 in Middle Village, a $36.7 million project will provide a new addition and renovation of the existing building on Penelope Avenue. The facility now boasts a fully air conditioned accessible three-story building serving students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Specialty classrooms include a music suite, science lab, a gym, guidance, medical and administrative offices and a library. The addition also includes a parent/community room and staff work areas, while alterations to the existing building include creation of five classrooms.

In all, the project will provide 410 seats, according to the SCA. Construction began in August 2007, with the addition completed this past month. Renovations to the existing building will continue through March 2010.

Also in Middle Village, a new school was built on the site of PS/IS 128 on 65th Drive. The four-story building for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades includes 21 standard classrooms, two special education classrooms, and reading, speech and small instruction rooms. Specialty rooms include an art room, music room and a science classroom including lab space. There is also a 5,400-square-foot gym, a 2,700-square-foot library, a 3,564-square-foot student cafeteria, a 500-square-foot staff lunch/conference room and a 4,800-square-foot auditorium. In addition, the building now offers five citywide special education classrooms, speech and physical therapy rooms, guidance and nurses’ offices, a parent/community room and a medical suite.

The $49.4 million project created 497 seats and is expected to be finished by September. Demolition of the old building and completion of a new playground is expected in May.

In Glendale, PS/IS 113 on 79th Avenue was expanded through a $40.5 million project that will result in 446 seats. The two-story, fully air conditioned handicapped accessible addition provides a new main entrance with elevators to all floors of the new and existing building. The addition includes 11 classrooms, three pre-kindergarten classrooms, two science labs and prep rooms, two special education classrooms, an art room and a music room.

The project also resulted in a 5,400-square-foot gymnasium and a 7,500-square-foot cafeteria/kitchen complex. New and existing spaces include new fire alarm systems, public address, telephone, security and data systems, backed up with emergency power. Alterations to the existing school include a new library in the lower level, medical and guidance suites and improvements to the auditorium. Space has also been created for a school-based support team, parent/community room and a small group instruction room. Site improvements include a new early childhood playground covering 3,000 square feet, repaving the main play area and new fencing and landscaping.

The existing building housing PS/IS 102 on Van Horne Street in Elmhurst has also been renovated with a new four-story fully air conditioned and handicapped accessible addition for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. It includes three pre-kindergarten, five kindergarten, five first grade, five second grade and 17 standard classrooms. In addition, there are three special education classrooms, two science labs and a resource room, a music suite and two art studios.

Other amenities included in the $56.2 million project, which will result in 936 seats, include a new 479-seat cafeteria totaling 2,339 square feet, a full-service kitchen, resource rooms, medical, guidance and administrative suites, a 5,400-square-foot gym and custodial office. In the main building, the existing cafeteria will be converted into a play space and a 1,859-square-foot library. Site improvements include a 3,000-square-foot early childhood education playground and larger play yard with running track.

The final project in this capital plan for District 24 is the renovation of the Elmhurst building that formerly housed St. Bartholomew School on 43rd Avenue. That building, which the city is leasing, received a new kitchen, windows, roof, electrical upgrades and room conversions through the $6.4 million project started in June 2008.

Three other projects were also completed around the borough in time for the opening of school next month: the new Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, the second phase of the PS 78 annex in Long Island City and conversion of the former American Martyrs School on Peck Boulevard.

At a cost of $77.7 million, the new five-story Frank Sinatra School of the Arts will serve students in grades 9 through 12 with a focus on enhanced education and programs in performing and visual arts. In all, the building has seating for 998 students.

According to the SCA, the information provided regarding project cost reflects the amount of the construction contract and doesn’t cover ancillary costs such as land acquisition (where required) and furniture.

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