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Dist. 29, 25 to lose new schools due to fiscal crisis: Report

Several new school construction projects that might have alleviated the borough's chronic overcrowding problems have been scrapped in the wake of the mayor's budget cuts, a recently-released report reveals.

PS 263 in District 29 and PS 244 in District 25 are among six new schools in Queens whose funding has been deferred, according to a fiscal brief issued last week by the Independent Budget Office.

Also included in the report were four planned schools in Districts 24 and 27.

The loss of PS 263, which was to have provided space for 700 students, is a disappointment to Christopher Afuwah, a member of School Board 29.

"It's a big problem because the overcrowding affects the ability of the students to do hands-on, teacher-assisted learning," he said. "When you have a class over 32, all of a sudden the kids are not doing as well. Plus it takes away from what the kids have, like a good library or a good science lab."

But Afuwah was also hopeful that three new schools in the district that will open this fall will give students in southeast Queens a bit more elbow room. Those schools are PS 268 on Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, IS/PS 208 on the Glen Oaks campus and PS 270 on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton.

In Flushing, Arlene Fleishman, president of School Board 25, predicted that the deferment of funding for construction of PS 244 would contribute to school overcrowding in the area's bustling downtown.

"You are not going to have lower class sizes, that's for sure," she said.

The school, slated to go up on Franklin Avenue, was to have relieved overcrowding at PS 20, located on nearby Barclay Avenue.

For 30 years, children at PS 20 had to be bused to Whitestone and Kew Gardens Hills - less crowded parts of the district, Fleishman said.

About five years ago, an addition to the school ended the busing. But additional enrollment made a resumption of the busing necessary two years ago, Fleishman said.

"It's a disaster, a real disaster," she said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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