WOODSIDE — Elected officials on Tuesday criticized the Department of Education's plan to temporarily bus more than 200 students from Woodside's P.S. 11 to another school in Astoria while an annex is built to relieve overcrowding there.
The pols cited concerns from parents and community leaders that the three-mile trek to P.S. 171 will be too far for incoming kindergarten and first grade students to travel during the construction starting this fall, which is expected to take three years.
Parents have also cited concerns about overcrowding in P.S. 11's classrooms during the project, which according to a DOE plan, first reported by DNAinfo, could put 46 first- through fifth-grade students in a single room. The students are currently being housed in trailers that would have to be removed to make room for the addition.
Rep. Joseph Crowley and other Queens representatives said they were told Monday that the DOE is moving forward with the proposal, which they'd been urging the department to reconsider.
"While the expansion of P.S. 11 is a crucial investment in our children’s education, we cannot allow its construction to displace our youngest students so far from home," Crowley said in a statement.
The officials argue that P.S. 171's distance from P.S. 11, as well as its proximity to the nearest subway station — about seven blocks — would be burdensome to parents who need to travel to the school in the case of an emergency, or who have more than one child enrolled at P.S. 11.
The 230-270 students would only be at P.S. 171 for one year under the DOE's plan; they would be relocated during the second year of construction, along with the next incoming class of P.S. 11 kindergarteners, to P.S. 339, a new school that's being built just less than half a mile from P.S. 11.
But the DOE said the configuration of grades that are to be bused could change, according to the plan.
The proposal still needs the approval of the Panel for Educational Policy, which is expected to vote during its meeting on March 18.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has pushed for the students to be relocated instead to P.S. 313, another new school opening in Sunnyside this fall, which would be closer.
"Parents believe this is the best option for their children, and I highly recommend the Department of Education reevaluate their decision," Van Bramer said in a statement.
But the DOE said P.S. 313 is intended to bring much-needed classroom space to overcrowded District 24, where it's located. The School Construction Authority had looked at other options for the P.S. 11 students, including the leasing of Catholic school space, but none were available.
“Our aim is to deliver a state-of-the-art addition to the building, and as part of our newly announced engagement protocol, we will be scheduling a meeting with the entire school community,” DOE spokesman Harry Hatfield said in a statement.