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Capital project promises classroom walls

Built in the mid-1970s during the apex of educational experimentation all across the country, the classrooms for grades four through six in P.S. 175 followed the “open classroom” model of a big open space housing multiple grades, in vogue at that time.

Now, an item that has been placed in the Department of Education’s Five-Year Capital Plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year, will provide $5 million to put up walls between different classrooms on the second floor of the school at 200 City Island Avenue. The money will also allow for the needed changes to the heating systems and doorways in what is presently a large open space housing all classes in grades four through six, as well as some seventh and eighth grade classes.

Parents, as well as teachers and administrators at the school have recently said that open corridor of classrooms, which has partitions but not walls separating the different classes and grades, is a distraction for students. Each class currently takes place in one corner of the room, but the noise level spilling over from class to class has become unbearable.

“We have been working on this project for more than a decade,” said three-term president of the PTA and school leadership team co-chair Dr. Edmund Rothschild, M.D. “The DOE’s own study shows that the noise levels are well above the standard conducive to learning. This will vastly improve the learning environment and bring it up to current standards. We are grateful to the School Construction Authority for undertaking this project.”

Unfortunately, both of Rothschild’s two children will have graduated from the school before construction even begins.

“This has been a big issue at P.S. 175 for a number of years,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who along with Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., was instrumental in helping to get this item put in the preliminary budget. “Very few schools were built this way, and the parents and teachers found this to be a distraction.”

Vacca said the cost of the project is so large because individual duct work needs to be done for each new classroom, and changes need to be made to the ceiling of what is presently a large open space housing three grades worth of students.

“I certainly do believe this is a very worthwhile project, and this it is good news,” Vacca said. “I know that the principal of the school was ecstatic when she heard the news that it was in the plan.”

Right now, construction is being planned for 2011, and will include interior alterations to classrooms and corridors as it relates to walls, ceilings, and doors.

The Department of Education also commented on the project.

“If the project is called for in the capital plan, there definitely is a need for it,” said William Havemann, DOE spokesman. “The DOE is happy to meet that need.”

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