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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Designated Capacity"

Oure neighbors need our help.

College Point residents have repeatedly voiced their desire to have a middle school in the isolated neighborhood, but members of the city Department of Education have said in recent meetings that the statistics do not necessarily support a new building.

College Point parents have expressed their frustration at how far away middle schools are for their children. Specifically, they have complained about the discontinuation of yellow bus service for middle schoolers this year.

In years past, youngsters boarded the hulking yellow machines in the morning and were whisked out of the neighborhood to middle schools in adjoining communities: JHS 194 at 154-60 17th Ave. in Whitestone, or JHS 185 at 147-26 25th Drive in Flushing.

For College Point parents, the long, pre-dawn commutes on public transportation have made the distance between students’ homes and their middle schools painfully apparent. It has driven the College Point Civic Association to step up advocating for a middle school within the neighborhood, which is a peninsula isolated from the rest of the borough by the Whitestone Expressway.

“We see the need for a middle school to be built in College Point,” said Andrew Rocco, a member of the civic’s education committee. “We are geographically isolated.”

To bolster his argument, he cited large tracts of undeveloped land and vacant factories that could serve as a site. In addition, he said City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott mentioned in a speech late last year that he wanted to build 50 new middle schools across the city.

“The chancellor wants new middle schools. We want a new middle school. What’s the problem?” he asked.

But according to DOE officials, the problem is that the existing middle schools zoned for College Point students are not overcrowded.

At a Community Education Council District 25 meeting Feb. 1, District Superintendant Danielle DiMango told Rocco that JHS 185 and JHS 194 are operating at the designed capacity. She questioned what would happen to those schools if some of their students were siphoned off to go to a new middle school, leaving 185 and 194 underused.

According to documents from the state Department of Education, which evaluates the size of each school in New York, average class sizes in the four major study areas have decreased from the 2007-08 school year to the 2009-10 school year and hovered between 26 and 30 students per class.

At JHS 185, average class sizes have remained steady at 30 over the same time period.

Both middle schools were given a “B” grade in their progress reports, according to documents from the city DOE.

But Rocco was not convinced.

He cited the recent development of condos at the end of College Point Boulevard, which hundreds of new families could begin to occupy once they are completed.

“Where are these kids going to school?” he asked.

Rocco also pointed out that the two elementary schools in College Point, PS 29 and PS 129, have had to install auxiliary trailers in order to teach students, which he takes as a sign of a growing student population, although construction is also being done at one of the schools, he saidThe new condos, he said, will only compound the problem.

But the agency that is in charge of building new schools, the city School Construction Authority, cannot simply build based on speculation, according to Monica Gutierrez, who presented a yearly update from the authority at a CEC District 25 meeting in December.

If the authority used money to build a new school based on future housing, the agency could be left holding the bag if the units do not sell, she told a group of concerned College Point citizens.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.