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DOE plans new elementary school for St. Albans

The city Department of Education is planning to open an elementary school in 2015 in the former home of the St. Pascal Babylon school in St. Albans. Photo courtesy City Councilman Leroy Comrie
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city Department of Education’s math does not add up, parents in southeast Queens say.

St. Albans will be getting a new pre-K-5 school in two years when the city completes a multimillion-dollar renovation of a former Catholic school building, but parents said it is the neighborhood’s middle and high schools — not the local elementary schools — that need the extra space.

The DOE is planning to open a 379-seat elementary school in 2015 after completing a $19 million overhaul to the former St. Pascal Babylon School, on 112th Avenue in St. Albans, which was most recently the home of the Police Athletic League.

“The new school will be a major help to our community” City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said in a statement announcing the department’s plans. “Once PS 892 opens, it will help relieve the overcrowding currently taking place at PS 118 and PS 134, while helping to ensure our youth have the resources to learn and be successful in the future.”

The three elementary schools closest to the building — PS 118, PS 134 and PS 136 — however, are all underused, according to the DOE’s Blue Book.

“I don’t see the need for [an elementary school],” said Community District Education Council 29 President Alicia Hyndman. “The DOE sees the need, and when we talked to other parents, they said they would rather have a small middle school with a math or science concentration.”

In fact, just six blocks away a middle school and a high school share a building in what community members said is a poor fit.

“Why deny a new District 29 building to a school like Pathways College Preparatory School, currently co-located on the campus with IS 192 middle school, when it could occupy the new space and meet the needs of a growing high school population?” asked Adrienne Adams, chairwoman of Community Board 12 and former chairwoman of the board’s Education Committee. “Pathways has numerous issues such as classroom size, library (configured for middle school), lunch period during breakfast hours and bathrooms built for middle school students with insufficient urinals and stalls for a high school student population.”

Both Hyndman and Adams said they had not heard of any finalized plans until contacted for comment by TimesLedger Newspapers, and the community has taken umbrage with the way the DOE has handled the process.

In April 2012, a representative from the city School Construction Authority came before CB 12 to discuss the proposal for a new elementary school, but when asked why the site could not be used as a middle or high school, he said that was a question for the DOE’s Office of Portfolio Planning, and he could only speak to the building’s appropriateness for use as a school.

A spokesman for the department said that whenever the DOE opens a new school the goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for students.

“We’re working as hard as we can to work with and deliver for this community — and the new school reflects our efforts,” spokesman David Pena said. “Families will be well served by this new option.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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