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Borough to get six new schools this fall

Queens will be getting more than one-third of the new schools opening in September, officials with the School Construction Authority told Community Board 4 last week.

Of 17 schools opening for the 2008-09 school year, six will be in the borough, including the proposed Arts and Leather High School, which will operate as three new, separate high schools, said Mary Leas, SCA project support manager.

The schools will open after a $75 million renovation of an old four-story, 200,000-square-foot factory at 45-10 94th St. in Elmhurst.

Another major change will be an addition to PS 102, at 55-24 Van Horn St. in Elmhurst. The school, which previously taught children from pre-K to sixth-grade, will now include seventh- and eighth-grades.

CB 4 members were curious about the SCA's other plans, including the fate of a proposed 1,200-seat combination intermediate and high school on 74th Street that the board recently rejected.

Leas said the city is talking about cutting the number of students to 1,000 and making it strictly a high school.

The city is also on the verge of converting St. Bartholomew's School in Elmhurst to a public primary school for 250 students.

"We're finalizing the lease," said project manager Gordon Tung.

But CB 4 was also skeptical about whether the new schools would help reduce overcrowding.

Leas said some schools in District 24 have already seen drops in student numbers, but noted the high schools "are bursting."

"If you look at all the condos here under construction, we're no longer residential," said member Clara Sales. "We will always be overcrowded."

Member Enrique Lugo complained that portable classrooms have occupied much of the playground space at schools like PS 19 at 98-02 Roosevelt Ave. in Corona.

"PS 19 is the single most overcrowded school in the most overcrowded district," Leas said, noting she hoped the opening of PS 260 would alleviate the problem. "The goal of this administration is to eliminate transportable [classrooms] whenever possible."

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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