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Pols Push City to Expand Corona School Where Hundreds Learn in Trailers

By Katie Honan | April 15, 2015 11:46am
 P.S. 143 in Corona is forced to hold first grade classes in trailers next to the school.
P.S. 143 in Corona is forced to hold first grade classes in trailers next to the school.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — Parents and elected officials are pushing for the expansion of an overcrowded neighborhood elementary school which is nearly double its capacity and where hundreds of students are being forced to learn out of trailers.

Dozens of parents and students joined state Sen. Jose Peralta Tuesday at P.S. 143 to demand the city build a permanent extension to the elementary school, at 34-74 113th St.

Some 1,700 students from kindergarten through fifth grade share a small building there, along with six trailers and an annex 15 blocks away. The school was built to accommodate 900.

“No child should be educated in a trailer,” Peralta said. “Especially in 21st century New York City, to have kids learning in trailers is just unthinkable and it must stop.”

Peralta first proposed the addition two years ago, and at that time, the Department of Education admitted overcrowding at the school was a serious issue, he said.

The land Peralta's proposed as a potential location for the extension is a paved area that accommodates the school's trailers, he said. But the space is owned by the Parks Department, which has made plans for construction there more difficult, Peralta said.

The proposal won't impact the handball or basketball courts surrounding the school, and it won't take away green space from the adjacent Hinton Park, he said.  

Parks and the School Construction Authority "continue to collaborate to determine the feasibility of this proposal, and the impact it would have on existing park space while best supporting this school community," a Parks spokeswoman said.

DOE spokesman Jason Fink said the agency is "working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”

In February, city officials announced the longstanding trailers at another Corona school, P.S. 19, would be removed and the school would be getting a permanent extension as part of the city's plan to add 46,000 new seats citywide. 

The trailer removal was part of Borough President Melinda Katz's goal to remove the temporary facilities from all Queens schools.

P.S. 143 parents cheered the plan and urged the city to implement a similar solution at their school. Parents at the even chanted "si se puede," and described how overcrowding has affected life at the school for their kids.

Angelica Salgado, 40, said her 6-year-old son, Pablo Ramirez, eats lunch at 9:50 a.m. because there isn't enough space to fit all the students into the cafeteria at a more appropriate time.

"When I pick him up at 2 p.m., he's starving," she said.

When it snows, it takes longer to shovel around the trailers, so Ramirez's son and other first graders had class in the cafeteria a few times this winter. And 32 students are crammed into his one class, which also impacts his education, she said.

"These children are the future of this country," Ramirez said. "I want the children to succeed. I want my son to go to college."