A for effort: Lauded proposed school won’t help overcrowding - Brooklyn Paper

A for effort: Lauded proposed school won’t help overcrowding

If you build it, they will come: This empty lot on Third Avenue between 59th and 60th streets could house a 676-seat school for District 20, but the School Construction Authority would have to build a school its size every year for the next 10 years to eliminate overcrowding in the district.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

They’re crammed if they do and crammed if they don’t.

A proposed elementary school on the border of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park is a step closer to opening, but the new desks it could bring will hardly make a dent in one the most overcrowded district in the city, because the School Construction Authority just can’t find suitable places to build, a school leader said.

“The bottom line is you can’t build on what you don’t have,” said Laurie Windsor, who heads the District 20 Community Education Council. “If, right now, someone called me and said ‘There’s three sites. The owners are willing to sell,’ and the city bought them, we’d have enough money to build. But we don’t have the sites.”

Officials hope to open a 676-seat primary and intermediate school on four lots along Third Avenue and 59th Street by 2019. A city environmental study recently gave the spot a passing grade, and now Council must negotiate with the lots’ owners, a local pol said.

“This study found this is a viable site, so now the city can move forward with the purchase,” said Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park).

Area schools are the most overcrowded in the city, according to a 2015 Independent Budget Office study. The city has already committed cash for 3,000 new seats, but the Third Avenue site is the only one suitable in a district that spans Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Borough Park and includes parts of Sunset Park and Kensington, Windsor said.

By 2019, the number of public school students living in the area will balloon from 40,000 to 48,000, according to education department figures. Officials predict district enrollment will hover around 150 percent of capacity regardless whether the proposed school opens, city records show.

Many schools have done away with teacher break rooms and arts classrooms to cope with the lack of space, despite the education department creating 5,700 seats over the last six years, Windsor said.

“We’ve built all these new seats over the years and we’re still overcrowded,” she said.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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