As parents, school officials and teachers get ready for the start of the new school year Wednesday, City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) has announced his funding priorities for schools in his district.
Leffler has earmarked about $2 million from his discretionary fund for technology, libraries, parks, school construction and safety in his district, which covers Bayside, Glen Oaks, Bellerose, Floral Park, and parts of Little Neck, Queens Village, Jamaica and Fresh Meadows.
"I emphatically support our public schools," he said. "I know that they are a key to opportunity for our kids as I went to Queens schools from kindergarten through Jamaica High School."
He said the money will be used for a wide variety of projects at the 16 schools in District 26, the four schools in District 29, Benjamin Cardozo High School, Martin Van Buren High School and Queensborough Community College, which are in his council district.
Leffler said he made sure all the public schools in his district had a computer lab and that older computer labs were updated. And, he stressed, almost every elementary school has or will have a new playground.
New playgrounds are scheduled to be built at PS 178 in Jamaica, PS 133 in Bellerose, PS 221 in Little Neck, PS 213 in Bayside, and PS 191 in Floral Park, and outdoor spaces at MS 67 in Little Neck and IS 109 in Queens Village will be renovated.
When it comes to school overcrowding, which affects the entire borough, Leffler said Queens is short 27,000 seats to accommodate its student population. He said schools such as Cardozo will have movable classrooms in the parking lot while schools in District 29 had permanent additions to accommodate the growing student population.
Leffler said an elementary school, middle school and a high school will be built on a portion of the grounds of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center and District 29 has found property on Jamaica Avenue and 222nd Street for the construction of a new 650-seat elementary school.
"I look forward to working with School District 29 and the community to ensure the construction of a modern and safe school for our city's children," he said.
Leffler also is channeling money for a new library at Martin Van Buren High School, which will officially open in September. He said the renovated library has new curtains and the outdated books have all been removed to give the students a "state-of-the-art library and learning center."
"We not only need to provide space and books, but we must provide our students with qualified teachers who are paid a competitive salary," Leffler said.
"I support the improvement in school standards and raising of expectations, but at the same time students must still be seen as individuals with different strengths and needs," he said. "It is therefore imperative that class sizes are small enough so that each child's needs can be addressed."
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