2006-10-13 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions It's All A Question of Finding Seats For New Students

There is a quiet crisis building on the Rockaway peninsula that has nothing to do with guns and drugs, lifeguards and beach access, lines painted on the roadway or new cell towers. It is about development and a swelling population of children that will find no seats at local elementary schools. The problem is one of uncontrolled school population growth at the same time that seats are diminishing due to a school reorganization that adds a middle school component of three grades to most of the elementary schools on the peninsula. Take, for example, PS 183 on Beach 79 Street. That school, once surrounded by empty lots, is now surrounded by two-family homes and mid-rise condominium buildings of Arverne by The Sea. Those new buildings have brought new students to an already overcrowded building that now houses a pre-K to grade 8 program rather than the traditional pre-K to grade 5 program. While Arverne By The Sea is the largest development program on the peninsula, planning to add thousands of new school-age children to the peninsula, all you have to do is look around to see that there are dozens of smaller development programs throughout the peninsula. Statistics show that two-bedroom homes bring with them at least one child and that three-bedroom homes often bring two or more. Where will these children go to school? That is the problem. The city does not seem to be worried. Department of Education officials have pointed to the school that the developers of Arverne By the Sea are mandated to build within the development. That school will only have 800 seats, however, and a public charter school is planned, which means that children from all over the peninsula will be chosen by application and a lottery for admission to that school. Eight hundred seats will not do it for a peninsula that desperately needs three new schools with upwards of 3,000 seats over the next five years. School officials talk about the newly-funded school construction money coming from the state, which will fund at least one new school, and perhaps two over the next nine to twelve years. That is too little and too late. The time to start planning those three new schools and doing the necessary site acquisition and planning is now, not nine years from now. By that time, it will be too late and our children will be attending schoolon double and triple sessions.

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