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Woodside School Will Get Annex to Replace Longtime Trailer Classrooms

WOODSIDE — The city will build an annex to relieve overcrowding at a Queens school that's housed hundreds of students in classroom trailers for more than a decade, officials announced Friday.

The new addition will be constructed at P.S. 11, at 54-25 Skillman Avenue in Woodside, where staff and local elected officials have fought for years to get permanent space to replace the cramped and outdated temporary classroom units hulking in the schoolyard for the last 12 years.

"In this community we've had to learn that 'temporary' can mean a long time," Joseph Conley, chair of local Community Board 2, said at a press conference at the school on Friday. "We're very happy to be here today to see these temporary classrooms come to an end."

More than 8,000 students across the city from pre-kindergarten to high school took classes in trailers in the 2011-'12 school year, DNAinfo.com New York reported last fall.

About 220 kindergarten and first grade students at P.S. 11 currently use the school's portables,  where they shuffle back and forth to the main building throughout the day, even in bad weather, according to principal Anna Efkarpides.

The school is so cramped that teachers have had to send students to study in hallways, and art and music supplies are shuttled from room to room in a cart, Efkarpides said. Preliminary plans for the new annex include the possibility of a designated music classroom, a science lab and an exercise space, she added.

"All the things that we don't have right now," she said. "I'm very excited, and so is my staff."

The new addition will likely be built in the footprint of the trailer classrooms in the schoolyard, and will hold approximately 350 students, according to School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo. She said the agency has selected OMNI Architects to design the building, a process that will take about a year, with construction to start some time after that.

Grillo said the project has been difficult to get off the ground, mainly because there is very little space to build next to the school and because the schoolyard's pavement is on a slope.

"It's very close to the main building. We'll be doing major construction out here, there's noise, there's all kinds of issues. It's always a challenge," she said.

The city has yet to determine where the students currently taught in the trailers will go once construction starts.

"We'll be working very closely with the principal and the administration of the school to work that out," Grillo said.

School Districts 24 and 30 in Queens are among the most crowded in the city, officials say. P.S. 11 is at 120 percent capacity, according to City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area.

The city plans to build a number of new schools in the two districts, including two in Long Island City, one in Sunnyside and another in Woodside just a few blocks from P.S. 11.

That school, a five-story building to be constructed on 57th Street and 39th Avenue called P.S. 339, will house 470 students. But it still won't be enough to relieve P.S. 11, making the annex there a necessity, Grillo said.

"Even though we're building an entirely new school building three blocks away from here, the overcrowding problem still exists, and will continue to exist, so that's why we're doing this," she said.