By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — The renovation of a local elementary school already facing issues of overcrowding continues to concern administrators hoping to be considered for available school space elsewhere as they wait to determine the project's timeline and its possible effects on students.
East Village Community School, which shares a building with two other schools on East 12th Street, issued a plea early last month asking to expand to another school building on the same block, prior to its approval for use by Girls Prep Charter School's middle-school grades.
Now, citing mounting concerns over overcrowding and a planned reconstruction of the school's auditorium, EVCS is lobbying to be considered for any underutilized space in the district, including the East Houston Street building where Girls Prep wants to expand its existing elementary-school grades.
The EVCS renovation project design won't be finalized until June, a Department of Education Spokesman said, after which it will be bid out and take about a month to finish.
The DOE noted that it works out a schedule with the affected schools so that activities there can continue during the length of the project and not be interfered with by construction.
The spokesman added that the project's completion date is not relevant, given that the school will not be disrupted by the renovation.
However, EVCS principal Robin Williams said that school is already so crowded that any amount of construction work will impact her students.
"It's definitely going to cause some discomfort for us," she said of the 215-person school, noting that the auditorium is the only shared space for all three schools in the building. "We're just trying to work out ways to figure out what we're going to do when we don't have that space."
The School Construction Authority ultimately fond no evidence of contamination following a round of tests, she explained, but that hasn't kept her from expressing the need to find new space.
Regarding the overcrowding problem, the principal used the example of EVCS's special-education students, who are currently crammed into a former office and can't increase enrollment due to space constraints.
"They're squeezed, they're in tight quarters, and they really shouldn't be," she said, noting that the school is only serving six special-ed students when it's supposed to be able to accommodate 12.
Other school programs using classroom space are "sort of like nomads," though EVCS has been working with its fellow schools in the building to maximize use, Williams said.
The principal attributed EVCS's failure to be considered for space elsewhere to not going through the proper channels — namely the DOE itself.
"Relying on connections through DOE isn't necessarily the best plan, which is essentially why we haven't been given the space," she said, claiming that the school was told nothing could be done to address the overcrowding situation when it petitioned the DOE for help a year ago.
"It's unfortunate, and coming into the situation you do think you have a support system," Williams noted. "Certain issues you just have to handle differently, and moving a school is one of them."
Instead, EVCS has begun to work with the District 1 Community Education Council, leading the council to raise the issue at a hearing last week regarding Girls Prep's expansion on Houston Street.
The CEC is exploring the possibility of leasing community space for EVCS at a public housing complex across street from the school, though the council and school would need to find a way to raise money for rent, said CEC 1 president Lisa Donlan.
In the meantime, Williams said, EVCS's growth will continue to be stunted by a lack of available space.
"We could open another pre-K if we could get the space," she said, noting that many parents are drawn to the school for its diverse student body and progressive curriculum.
"We have two [pre-Ks] now, we could easily have three, but it's definitely not going to happen. It's hard to have parents come in here and say [to them], 'Sorry, we just can't do it.'"