Thursday, July 29, 2010

After 10 Years of Lobbying, PS 87 to Finally Receive Annex

By Tamara Best

After 10 years of waiting and pleading their case, parents and students of PS 87 have a reason to celebrate.

On Tuesday, City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced that the Middle Village school would receive a new annex, creating room for 120 seats and a gymnasium.

“I am happy to report that the feasibility study has been completed and it is the determination of the [Department of Education] and [Schools Construction Authority] to move forward with an annex at PS 87,” Klein said in a letter to Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24. The design will phase will begin in the coming weeks, followed by a timeline for the project’s completion.

Parents, educators and community leaders say the annex will provide much needed help to the school.

“I really want to thank everyone for pushing this extension through, it’s a miracle,” said Caryn Michaeli, principal of PS 87. “The parents are grateful and the children are eternally grateful—and it’s about the children.”

PS 87 has approximately 600 students in kindergarten through 8th grade in addition to special education. As one of the first schools in the district to be converted into a K-8 nearly a decade ago, it is the only that has not yet received an expansion.

Though new schools have been built in recent years, District 24 is considered to be the most over-crowded in the city.
In the past, officials have argued that the school did not warrant the upgrades because it was not overcrowded like others in the area.

“Especially given the city’s difficult economic circumstances, it is essential that we prioritize school construction for the neighborhoods that need it most,” a DOE spokesman told The Forum last year. Because the school is not overcrowded, the DOE had planned to address concerns “without the construction of a costly and unnecessary addition.”

But, parents and educators say the expansion is needed, and it appears that the DOE has changed its stance on the need for one, based on Klein’s letter.

“Originally when we were asked to go to [pre] K-8 we were promised an extension, but that never happened,” parent Bernadette Beninati told The Forum in August 2009. “It’s not luxuries we’re looking for, it’s necessities for our kids... During the swine flu out- break children were lined up to get into the bathroom, it’s just crazy.”

Tuesday evening, when the announcement of the annex was made at the CEC meeting, Beninati clapped and cheered along with other parents.

“We’re thrilled, we’ve been fighting for this,” she said.

Despite not being as crowded as other schools, PS 87 still faces issues in need of attention.

The cafeteria can only hold 100 people at a time and occasionally doubles as a gym. Additionally, the second floor only has two toilets, something Michaeli called “completely inadequate for the amount of people” in a 2008-09 Building Condition Assessment of the school by the DOE.

Last year, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) led Klein on a tour of the school in effort to bring added attention to the conditions. She called the annex “a big victory for our community and, most importantly, for our students.”

At this time it unknown how long it will take to build the annex, where it will located and how much it will cost.

Still, Comianno praised the announcement. “This is very good news,” he said. “This is what happens when we work together.”

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