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DOE Announces New Plan for STEM Gifted Program in Queens After Criticism

ASTORIA — The Department of Education is amending its plan for the future of the STEM citywide gifted program in Queens after parents slammed the city's first proposal.

STEM — an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is currently housed at P.S. 85, at 23-70 31st St. in Astoria, but will need to be relocated to make room for an expansion as the program grows from a K-4 to a K-8.

Last week, the DOE proposed putting STEM's younger classes at P.S. 76, an elementary school at 36-36 10th St. in Astoria. But parents complained the school, located 20 minutes from the nearest subway station, is too far from public transportation.

Parents also worried that P.S. 76, though identified by the city as an underutilized building, wouldn't have space for STEM because it already houses a number of special education classes that require more room for therapy and programming.

The DOE said Monday it will instead co-locate STEM grades K-4 at P.S. 17, at 28-37 29th St., another underutilized school in Astoria, which STEM parents had suggested as a possible site. STEM grades 5-8 would be co-located at middle school I.S. 126, at 31-51 21st St.

The new locations will be phased in over several years.

“Families across the city will be served well by this plan. We’ve worked extremely hard over the past several months to identify space to extend and create a standalone city-wide STEM program," DOE spokesman Devon Puglia said in a statement. "We always try to incorporate feedback from school communities, and we’re glad we can accommodate a citywide K-8 program in Queens with this proposal."

Ray Yeh, who has a daughter in second grade at STEM, said though many parents had hoped for one location to house the program, most so far are pleased with the amended plan.

"It wasn’t ideal because it’s a split site, but this was one of the proposals that we kind of countered with," he said. "I think, in general, most of the parents are very happy. I'm certainly in that class."

The proposal will need to be approved by the District 30 Community Education Council before it can go forward.