As students at PS 49 in Middle Village routinely spend time in illegally overcrowded classrooms – for example, there are 37 students packed into a fifth-grade class – parent leaders are begging education officials to do something to alleviate the skyrocketing number of students that they said pose serious problems with everything from a lack of personal attention to safety concerns.
PS 49 Parent Teacher Association President Alicia Vaichunas, whose son attends fifth grade at the school, said she is crossing her fingers for four solutions: an extension at the institution, a school district rezoning that would alleviate overcrowding not only at the Middle Village site but elsewhere in the area, classes’ populations being capped earlier than currently happens, and stricter registration policies that would make it more difficult for parents to lie about their child’s address in order to guarantee them a spot at the school.
“There are 37 students in my son’s fifth-grade class – and the teachers are great, but it’s a safety issue,” Vaichunas said. “You’re having 1,135 students moving around the school at the same time. God forbid something happens during the transition time from class to class.”
Overcrowded classrooms have hampered School District 24 – in which PS 49 is situated – for years, and the city Department of Education has said it has worked hard to address the issues, which parents have also said includes a limited amount of time that teachers can spend with each pupil. The city recently proposed a rezoning in District 24 which officials argued would have helped to decrease the population at PS 49. Community Education Council 24 members overwhelmingly rejected the rezoning, however, saying it would have been a band-aid solution because students would have been funneled from PS 49 to two other area schools – PS 128 in Middle Village and PS 102 in Elmhurst – that are also overcrowded.
CEC 24, a parents organization that oversees schools in Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst, Maspeth, Middle Village, and Corona, has the final say on school rezoning proposals, meaning the vote that occurred at a meeting late last month stops the city’s plan dead in its tracks.
“It wasn’t a well thought-out plan,” Comaianni said in a previous interview. “They were trying to alleviate overcrowding at 49 but they wanted to alleviate it by putting kids into other schools that are over 100 percent capacity.”
PS 49 is now operating at about 131 percent capacity, while PS 128 is at 118 percent capacity and PS 102 at 108 percent capacity, according to city statistics.
Vaichunas said there are other locations the city could move students to, offering PS 87 in Middle Village as an example.
“PS 87 has an extension, and they have classrooms with 11 kids,” she said. “I think they’re hoping 87 open because the homeless shelter could open up.”
The city Department of Homeless Services is pushing a proposal for a nonprofit to operate a 125-family shelter on Cooper Avenue in Glendale.
By Anna Gustafson