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New schools expected to curb overcrowding

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With two brand new schools, an expansion and a renovated building scheduled to open their doors on the first day of school Thursday, School District 24 boasts one of the city’s most impressive rosters of facility expansions this year.

But whether or not the new space will strip the district of its status as the city’s most overcrowded remains to be seen.

“We have moved a lot of kids so some of the schools that were really bursting at the seams won’t be quite bursting,” said Patricia Grayson, the president of Community School Board 24. “But unfortunately, we have not solved the overcrowding problem. It’s just a Band-Aid on a very large hole.”

District 24, which includes the communities of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Corona and Elmhurst, stood at 124 percent capacity at the end of last school year, making it the tightest squeeze of the city’s 33 school districts.

Although students are being shuffled around to ease the burden on the more crowded schools and fill up the new facilities, administrators are still waiting to assess how much of a dent the more than 1,500 new seats will make in the overcrowding.

“It’s enabled us to move kids around and set up some relief right now,” said August Saccoccio, a deputy superintendent for the district. “You have to wait for the dust to settle and then count the actual heads. We’re still short of seats, there’s no doubt.”

The jewel of the new buildings is PS 58 on Grand Avenue and 72nd Place, which will hold about 900 students between kindergarten and fifth grade, then expand next year to include sixth graders.

PS 58 has been named the School of Heroes, honoring the 41 uniformed people who lived or worked in the district who died Sept. 11. The school sits down the block from the firehouse for Squad 288/Hazmat 1, which lost 19 men at the World Trade Center.

“That’s been an inspiring place, what it’s going to be and what it represents,” Saccoccio said.

A dedication ceremony will be held sometime after the school year gets underway.

Another new school, PS 28 off 111th Street and 47th Avenue in Corona, is a small early childhood center that will hold about 400 students from kindergarten to second grade.

PS 91 at Central Avenue and 69th Street in Glendale has been expanded with a new 18-classroom wing, allowing the addition of 400 students as well as a reduction in class sizes.

On the campus of PS 153 on 60th Lane in Maspeth, two buildings are now open where previously there had only been one. A new school opened there two years ago while the original structure was closed for renovations. The old facility is now reopening, allowing the school to move four classes out of the gymnasium and remove eight transportable classrooms from the school yard.

Across the district the new facilities are bringing about a reduction in the reliance on transportable classroom buildings, each of which holds two rooms, which have been cut down from 43 to 36 or 37.

“That’s really the trend that you hope to see,” Saccoccio said. “You hope to see that you can replace these transportable classrooms with real brick and mortar.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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