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Council committee OKs 3 new schools

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In an attempt to alleviate the enormous overcrowdin in Queens’ grade and high schools, the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and...

By Bryan Schwartzman

A city council subcommittee Tuesday approved construction of a high school and two elementary schools in Queens.

In an attempt to alleviate the enormous overcrowdin in Queens’ grade and high schools, the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses voted to begin construction on the High School for Architecture and Urban Planning in Ozone Park and elementary schools in Jamaica and Far Rockaway. City Councilman John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights) chairs the subcommittee.

The construction plans next go before the Land Use Committee and then the entire City Council for final approval.

Gregory Shaw, a real estate attorney for the School Construction Authority, told the subcommittee the new high school would alleviate crowding at Richmond Hill and John Adams high schools, which together operate at 173 percent of capacity.

Shaw said the proposed building, planned for 94th Avenue and 104th Street, would provide 904 classroom seats and should be completed by spring 2004.

“Our students in Queens deserve more education time, not less,” Shaw said, explaining that overcrowding has greatly increased the ratio of students to teachers.

Several John Adams High School students testified before the subcommittee about the effects of severe overcrowding on the learning process. Gerald Burns, from the Queens High Schools superintendent’s office, said John Adams has more than 4,000 students and operates at 180 percent capacity.

Michelle Cruz, student body president, said it takes students an average of 20 to 25 minutes a day to pass through the metal detectors. She said the overcrowding has led to an extended day schedule with students taking classes into the late afternoon, causing them to miss extra-curricular activities.

“It’s hard to coordinate any student activities,” said Cruz.

Another student, Paloir Singh, said construction of a new school would prevent John Adams from going on a 14-period schedule in the fall, with classes starting at 6:50 a.m. and ending at 5:15 p.m.

Sabini said current students probably will not see any changes during their tenure at the school.

“Unfortunately, if the school gets built, it won’t be until well after you have graduated,” he said.

School District 29, whose schools operate at 112 percent capacity, should also expect some relief, Shaw said.

PS 268 would add 704 seats to the district and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2003, Shaw said. The school would be located at 176th Street in Jamaica Avenue.

Several months ago Community Board 12 overwhelming voted against the school location because of traffic and parking concerns, as well as the playground planned for the roof.

But City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-Jamaica) said while he respects the community board's position, he fully backs the project.

“I don’t believe there are any other ideal sites for school construction,” Spigner said. “I support this location because the seats are desperately needed.”

Rose Walker, director of Distrit Office of Intergovernmental Relations, read a letter of support from district Administrator Michael Johnson, who said the school would have state-of-the-art facilities with every classroom connected to the Internet.

The subcommittee also approved construction of PS 253, to be located in Far Rockaway under the jurisdiction of District 27.

Reach contributing writer Bryan Schwartzman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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