ALLERTON — The Department of Education wants to temporarily relocate some PS 96 students to a new school building next year to make way for the construction of new classroom facilities.
The plan, if approved, would send next year’s first graders and one or two second grade classes to X292, a new school building that’s being constructed at 800 Lydig Ave., about a mile south, while a new addition is built at PS 96.
The new addition will permanently replace a set of 22 trailer classrooms, or Temporary Classroom Units (TCUs), which have been used at the overcrowded school for years. PS 96 students would share the building with students at the as-yet unnamed new school at X292 until Sept. 2015, when the new addition at PS 96 should be finished, at which point the students would be moved back.
The DOE held a public hearing on the proposed move Wednesday night. And while parents welcomed the idea of the trailer classrooms being gone for good, some said they were worried about having to send their kids to a new building in the meantime.
“My son is always referring to this as ‘My school,’” said Alfred Otero, 46, who has a son in kindergarten at PS 96, at 650 Waring Ave. in Bronxwood. “To put him in another school — it’ll be culture shock.”
School officials said a shuttle bus would bring children from the PS 96 campus to the X292 building, and that the children would have the same teachers and administrators.
“This will be their home base, even though they’ll be relocated to X292,” PS 96 principal Marta Garcia told parents on Wednesday.
“It’ll still be 96 — 96 rules, 96 staff, 96 administration,” said Community School District 11 superintendent Elizabeth White.
Garcia said the school is in dire need of the new addition, which will replace the 22 TCUs that the school uses for its first and second graders.
“We are elated that the addition is coming,” she said, adding that PS 96 has more trailer classrooms than any school in Bronx District 11. The TCUs take up what used to be a play space for the children, she said, and once the new addition is built, the school will have a full playground for the first time in over a decade. Many students now have to spend recess inside because of the lack of outdoor space.
Thousands of public school students across the city have trailers for classrooms, DNAinfo.com reported in September.
"They're packed up like sardines in the classroom. There's no room," one PS 96 mom said last month. "If one of them gets sick, they all get sick."
“It’s back and forth,” she said. “It’s time that’s wasted. They’re not being educated during that time.”
But mom Janice Rivera, 38, who lives just across the street from PS 96, said she's worried about having to send her daughter on a bus every day to a strange new building.
"My baby is in kindergarten and I feel this is just going to be a repeat, another adjustment for her," Rivera said.
She wondered why the school is proposing to uproot the first and second graders instead of students in the older grades.
"Children struggle with transition, especially young children," she said.
Garcia said relocating the younger students makes the most sense since the first and second graders currently have their classrooms in the TCUs. The classrooms inside the main PS 96 building are already arranged to accommodate the older students, she said.
Carmela Acosta, 25, who has a son in kindergarten at PS 96 and another in second grade, said she wouldn't mind the move since it means getting permanent classrooms for the children instead of the trailers.
"It's good for the kids. They need a big space," she said. "I think the sacrifice is okay."
The DOE's Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on the relocation on Oct. 11.