Today’s news:

PS 101 is packed: Parents

After writing more than 150 letters and making hundreds of 311 phone calls to the city about overcrowded classrooms at PS 101 in Forest Hills, parents are fed up with what they call the lack of progress made to mitigate the cramped classrooms they say are negatively affecting their children’s education.

“My son is very frustrated and therefore doesn’t want to go to school,” said Mindy Schmidt of her first−grade son, Zachary Schmidt.

Schmidt and other parents said they were frustrated that the implementation of a gifted and talented program, capped at 28 students, pushed the other three first−grade classes into overcrowded classrooms of about 30 to 31 pupils. Last year PS 101 kindergarten students were in classes with an average size of about 24 to 25 pupils.

Parents contend the gifted and talented program is not needed in a school that consistently boasts high−performing students. DOE spokesman Will Havemann, however, said the city added the program in order to give parents more educational choices.

Parents also were upset that program accepted 12 out−of−zone students, or pupils who live outside the PS 101 area.

“We went out of our way to pick this school district and spent a lot of extra money to be in this neighborhood, and now students coming in from other neighborhoods are in a class of an appropriate size, but not students who live here?” asked Forest Hills resident Tyler Hammond, whose son, Benjamin. is in first−grade.

Spearheaded by Parents Association President Deborah Dillingham, Forest Hills parents began addressing the problem with their principal and superintendent at the beginning of the school year. Unsatisfied by what parents said was a lack of answers, they moved up the chain of command and took the issue to city Portfolio Development Office officials.

Again, parents said they got the run−around, with officials never coming through on promises of setting up meetings with parents, members of the city Department of Education and school administrators to discuss the overcrowding.

In total, parents have written more than 150 letters to city officials and made at least a couple hundred phone calls to the city’s 311 hotline.

Principal Ronnie Feder did not return requests for comment, but Havemann said city officials have been working closely with Feder to reach a solution acceptable to the PS 101 community.

“We’re committed to working with the community at [PS] 101 to make sure that we can provide kids with an excellent learning environment, and we’ll continue to do that,” Havemann said.

Havemann added the gifted and talented program will be phased out once those now in the first−grade gifted and talented program reach sixth grade. The DOE spokesman said officials are working to set up a meeting with parents, city officials and administrators.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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