To try and ease overcrowded schools in Jackson Heights, the School Construction Authority is proposing a new elementary school at 69-01 34th Ave., the former site of White Castle’s regional headquarters.
Representatives with the SCA met with members of Community Board 3 on May 21, to propose the acquisition and demolition of the existing property in order to make way for a 450 seat elementary school.
“Given the extraordinary need for school seats in this part of Queens, the Department of Education capital plan identifies the need for 1,300 additional seats, of which we’re funded for about 900,” Kenrick Ou, director of the SCA’s real estate group, told the members of CB 3. “The SCA evaluated the site and we think it’s a great location that is well poised to help relieve overcrowding at nearby schools like PS 152 and PS 69.”
Based on demographic projections and estimated housing growth, the SCA projects student population in Community Education Council District 30 will increase by 2019, with enrollment reaching between 24,427 and 25,152 primary school students in prekindergarten through fifth grade.
“This number suggests a potential increase of up to 4,345 students from the current enrollment of all existing Community District 30 primary schools and would, in the future without the proposed school, be anticipated to result in a target utilization rate between 126 percent – 130 percent of those schools,” according to the SCA’s proposal.
Jeff Guyton, co-president of CEC 30, previously told the Queens Tribune that with funding for 450 new seats, the proposal is a “really good first step” toward addressing overcrowding issues in local schools. “Obviously this is really great news for the district,” Guyton said. “It gets us about a third of the way there.” In addition to a proposed elementary school in Jackson Heights, Guyton said the district is working to find a location for a new middle school in Sunnyside and a suitable site for a school in Hunters Point.
Danielle Schaaff, community relations manager for the SCA, said that in CB 3’s subsection of District 30, which includes Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, there are 912 seats that have been funded, with another 456 seats that were identified but not included as part of the capital plan.
“This would be one of those projects and would be opening in September of 2019 if everything goes as plan and on schedule,” Schaaff said. “We know that sounds like a long time, but four years will really fly by and by then we’ll probably need two more schools.”
Although SCA representatives said the agency has not started the design process, parents and other community stakeholders expressed concern with the site’s proximity to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, as well as a lack of parking space for teachers and administrators in the vicinity of the school.
“The SCA has very robust design standards,” Ou added. “Every inch is going to be used for either school yard or instructional space.”
Following the public discussion, members of CB 3 voted unanimously, in an executive session decision, to approve the SCA proposal. As part of the SCA’s public review process, Ou said that the agency will continue to accept public comment on the proposal until June 6.