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Zoning for New Hunters Point Middle School Could Include Sunnyside Students

 The DOE and the District 30 CEC will approve a zoning plan for the new school sometime this fall.
New Middle School for Hunters Point
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HUNTERS POINT — The Department of Education is hoping a new middle school opening in Long Island City this fall could eventually help ease overcrowding in neighboring Sunnyside.

DOE officials and members of the Community Education Council for Queens District 30 are working to hammer out a zoning plan for Hunters Point Community Middle School, or I.S. 291, which will open with 80 students this fall at 1-50 51st Ave.

The CEC has been doing community outreach on several possible DOE zoning proposals, and is looking to hold a public hearing and vote on a finalized plan sometime this fall, members said.

One potential plan includes zoning the Long Island City school to accept kids from the immediate neighborhood as well as from further east in District 24 — including P.S. 11, P.S. 150 and P.S. 152 — in an attempt to relieve overcrowding at Sunnyside middle school I.S. 125.

"The office of portfolio management is rightfully concerned about the pretty terrible overcrowding," at I.S. 125, District 30 CEC co-president Jeffrey Guyton said.

Education officials predict I.S. 291 will initially have space to spare because many Hunters Point kids will attend middle school at existing neighborhood school P.S. 78, which is expanding this year to includes students up to grade eight.

But Guyton said there is concern that zoning students from Sunnyside to the new Long Island City school could mean I.S. 291 will eventually become overcrowded, too, as a boom in residential development in Hunters Point is expected to bring new residents to the neighborhood in the coming years.

"Of course, that community wants to make sure they've got space in their neighborhood for their children," Guyton said.

The idea got mixed reviews from Sunnyside parents recently, CEC members said, with some intrigued by the option of sending their child to the new school — which will have an ecological focus — and others worried that the 7 train commute from Sunnyside to Long Island City is too long.

"It was almost an even split," said CEC co-president Isaac Carmignani.

Half of parents said the distance was a serious issue, while others were "a little more familiar with Long Island City, and they're like, 'Hey, the schools over there are great, taking a ride two or three or four stops on the train isn’t the end of the world," she added.

CEC member Valarie Lamour told her the ideal solution would be for the DOE to create more middle school seats in Sunnyside to deal with the neighborhood's overcrowding issues, rather than send overflow students to the Hunters Point middle school.

"I think it’s a lack of vision by not seeing that this would be a problem," she said, of the DOE. "What they’ve decided to do is put trailers and bus children off to different sides of the district."

Lamour said she also worried a plan that zoning the new school along Hunters Point and Sunnyside boundaries would leave out students who live further north in Long Island City, in and around the sprawling Queensbridge Houses. 

Another possibility being explored is making the school "priority choice," meaning it would be zoned for Hunters Point students, who would be guaranteed seats at the school, and then any extra space would be offered to students from other neighborhoods, including Sunnyside.

"Whereby kids in that whole number 7 train corridor could choose to go down to I.S. 291," Guyton said.

Any zoning proposal put forth by the DOE requires the approval of the district CEC. The District 30 CEC says it plans to hold more community meetings this fall, with the hopes of finalizing and voting on a plan for I.S. 291 during the upcoming school year. The zoning would go into effect starting in September 2014.

"This new middle school is part of the wide menu of options we’ve created for this community, and as we continue to seek feedback and listen to families, parents should know this school will deliver fantastic instruction to their children," DOE spokesman Devon Puglia said in a statement.