District 21’s schoolhouse blues - No new buildings over the next five years

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No new schools will be built in District 21 in the next five years.

“In District 21, there are no capacity projects in the next capital plan,” Fred Maley, the School Construction Authority’s (SCA) director of external affairs, explained at last week’s meeting of School District 21’s Community Education Council (CEC).

The city Department of Education (DOE) considers three factors when deciding if a district needs a new school building — utilization of existing schools, projected population growth, and available funding.

Several schools in District 21, which includes Coney Island and Bensonhurst, are underutilized.

“We do have schools that are somewhat underutilized and we do have schools that are overutiliz­ed,” explained Judy Gerowitz, District 21’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) representative.

In comparison, District 20, which spans Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Borough Park and part of Bensonhurst, is one of the most overcrowded in the city and will receive 2,600 new classroom seats in the 2010—2014 capital plan.

“It’s based on the overcrowding situation or lack thereof in the district,” Maley said. “They don’t all get new schools every five-year plan.”

That news will likely disappoint some District 21 schools that were hoping for new annexes or extensions.

Yoketing Eng, president of District 21’s CEC, said, “Brooklyn Studio wants a new building.”

The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for P.S. 95 at 345 Van Sicklen Street sent a letter to District 21’s CEC to explain why the school needs additional space.

“The DOE projects a decline in student enrollment,” the letter notes. However, “This should be questioned because of the development all around us.”

“Our enrollment is growing,” the PTA says.

The letter says the school’s portable classroom units, also known as trailers, are “falling apart.”

“We have crumbling temporary facilities,” Gerowitz agreed. “We remember in the 70s, our school buildings were neglected.”

Maley explained that with the current fiscal crisis, the DOE can only complete the most vital projects.

“There are priorities and unfortunately, District 21 has to compete against the needs of all the other districts,” Maley said.

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