More isn’t necessarily better – especially when it comes to the number of students crammed into western Queens classrooms.
Local leaders spoke out at a rally in Corona Tuesday about overcrowding, demanding that the city revise its formula for determining how many new seats and schools are added across the city.
A new report by the advocacy group Make the Road New York – based on Education Department figures – shows that more than half of students in Districts 24 and 30 attend overcrowded schools.
"We are really fed up, and we need to have concrete solutions," said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) during the rally near Public School 19.
"Capacity should not be defined by the time a child comes to register or comes to the door [of a school]. By that time it’s too late," she said.
She applauded the city for its plan to build new schools in the borough but noted those buildings can take years to erect.
The city plans to add more than 12,000 new classroom seats in Queens in 23 new buildings within the next few years, an Education Department official said. That includes almost 4,500 seats in District 24 and about 3,000 seats in District 30.
"In these two Queens districts alone we’ve already completed 5,300 new seats and have nearly 7,500 additional seats planned to open," agency spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld said. "[This] represents a major investment in Queens schools totaling over $1 billion."
Overcrowding is hitting immigrant communities especially hard, advocates said.
"The schools that need the most help and the most attention, they’re the ones who are lacking the most resources," said Alejandra Ruiz, who spearheaded the report for Make the Road.
Parent Ruth Chicaiza, 39, of Jackson Heights, one of the 75 people who attended the rally, said overcrowding has meant her two children at PS 19 receive little personalized attention.
"There needs to be more schools," she said through a translator. "It’s just one teacher and a lot of kids."
Due to the overcrowding, students at some schools eat lunch at 9:30 a.m. or hold classes in stairwells and the gym, elected officials said.
Parents also complained about the lack of bathrooms and creative classes – since art rooms are now being used as classroom space in some schools.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a former public school teacher, said the situation is "unacceptable."
"We’re going to stand up. We’re going to fight, and we’re going to make sure our kids get the quality education they deserve," he said.
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