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New schools arrive in boro

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More than 2,000 new classroom seats will be available in Queens this fall, when the city Department of Education opens four new facilities and three renovated buildings in a borough notorious for its overcrowded schools.

The largest of the incoming schools, the $158 million Metropolitan Avenue Campus in Forest Hills, will include a 1,000-seat high school, a 700-seat combined intermediate and high school and 200 special education seats. Lawmakers have praised the incoming campus, saying it should help alleviate crowded classrooms in District 28, particularly at Forest Hills High School.

“The two new schools opening on the Metropolitan Avenue Campus are a wonderful addition to our community that has been a very long time coming,” City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said. “The project began the first time I served in the Council in the 1990s and will finally come to fruition this fall as students and teachers begin to fill the halls and classrooms. I look forward to a great relationship between the schools and the Forest Hills community.”

Forest Hills HS is now the most crowded high school in the city, according to a recently released report by the city Independent Budget Office. The high school enrolled more than 3,600 students last year, but only had a capacity for a little more than 2,100, according to the report. Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows was ranked as the city’s second most-overcrowded high school.

The report did note the level of overcrowding in Queens schools has declined from 84 percent of schools in the 2004-05 academic year to 78 percent in 2008-09.

“Persistent high school overcrowding in Queens due to insufficient capacity is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Sarita Subramanian of the Independent Budget Office wrote in the report’s conclusion. “Additional construction in Queens appears to be necessary.”

Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School’s new $70.8 million building is scheduled to open this month with 805 seats. The school previously was located on 87th Avenue in Briarwood, but was moved to 160-20 Goethals Ave. in Briarwood to accommodate a larger number of students interested in a health sciences curriculum. City education officials said students will work closely with Queens Hospital Center, which is next to the school.

A $22.9 million new primary school at 88-01 102nd St. in Richmond Hill is a four-story building for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade. It will have 379 seats in standard and special-education classrooms.

PS 13 at 55-01 94th Ave. in Elmhurst received a $41 million renovation and an addition will include a new main entrance and lobby, a science laboratory, a music suite and an art room.

A $7.2 million project at PS 280 in Jackson Heights brings 199 seats to the primary school. The school’s buildings will get new roofs and additional classrooms.

The Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 23-15 Newtown Ave. in Astoria underwent a five-story renovation of the building for sixth- through 12th-grades. Sixteen new classrooms were added to the school, including a science lab, a dance studio, a music classroom and a library.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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