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For more than a decade now the pair of red, double-wide trailers perched alongside PS 176 in Cambria Heights has served as a sign of the school’s growth.
In the past 10 year’s, the school’s population has grown more than 30 percent. The building, however, has stayed the same size and that is why educators and elected officials gathered outside the school Monday to announce the city would be investing about $40 million to build a new extension.
“This school building is at 140 percent utilization,” city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. “It has grown and it’s just over capacity.”
The school, Walcott said, is a victim of its own successes. In addition to housing District 29’s gifted-and-talented program, PS 176 provides popular basketball and performing arts and music programs.
The chancellor also praised the Parent-Teacher Association for giving the school a reputation for strong parent engagement.
The school, at 120-45 235th St., is home to about 830 students, about 100 of whom receive instruction in the trailers next to the main building.
The extension, which is scheduled to be completed in 2016, will have room to house about 370 students.
“By the time these third-graders are in the seventh- or eighth-grade, they will be able to participate and be a part of that new extension,” Walcott said.
Although Walcott grew up in Cambria Heights and heads the city Department of Education, he recognized that in state Assembly District 33 he was but a guest.
The chancellor was joined by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) in praising Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) for her advocacy of schools in her district and in particular PS 176, from which three of her children had graduated.
Clark said that when the trailers originally went up, she promised they would come down in two years.
“They’re still here and they’ve been here a long time,” she said. “This has been a long struggle.”
The assemblywoman praised Principal Arlene Bartlett for “how she manages to keep these children at the level she keeps them with the population as high as it is.”
The mood was one of celebration and Smith took the opportunity to salute his colleague in the Assembly and at the same time have a little bit of fun with Walcott.
“No one could accuse the chancellor of not being smart,” Smith said. “He lives here in Queens. He grew up in this area, and he knows that in order to come home every night and to be able to go back to work every morning he’d have to go past Barbara Clark’s house. Now I’m not talking about her house down the block. I’m talking about this school right here.”
Smith, who has been rumored to be considering a run for mayor as a Republican, said the planned extension represented the “obligation and commitment” by Mayor Michael Bloomberg “that many questioned.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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