Beatriz Ayala loves P.S. 71, loves it so much she’s willing to endure overcrowding. The school’s 1,650 students occupy a building built for 950. P.S. 71 recently added a middle school academy.
“It’s an excellent school,” Ayala, a parent, said. “No fights. Great discipline. I’m ecstatic it’s K-8. I can deal with a few extra kids.”
Parent association president Mickey Neal agrees, more or less.
But the school is growing. Neal keeps a class roster tacked beside her desk. The roster is bottom-heavy.
“We have eight kindergarten classes averaging 25 students each,” Neal said. “Not counting special ed. We have seven first grade classes and seven second grade classes averaging 30 students each.”
P.S. 71 parent Harry Oehler blames the bulge on neighborhood development – think Waterbury Estates.
“Our principal is doing the best he can,” Oehler said. “But young families are moving here. We’re bursting at the seams.”
Most east Bronx schools are overcrowded, principal Lance Cooper said. P.S. 71 is no different.
Neal and Oehler think P.S. 71 could use an annex. The Board of Education built P.S. 72 an annex years ago. Six trailers sit behind P.S. 71; they’ll house kindergarteners next school year.
“The trailers are a stopgap,” Oehler said. “We need something permanent.”
A P.S. 71 annex would connect the school’s Jarvis Avenue and Hobart Avenue wings, covering a chunk of schoolyard.
“Class is more important that recess,” Ayala said. “I’m all for an annex.”
Oehler, a PS 71 alumnus, wants help from elected officials. But the school needs a plan, Councilman James Vacca said, plus a School Construction Authority cost estimate. Vacca helped P.S. 71 acquire the trailers last year.
“First step, the parents and principal need to reach a consensus,” he said.
According to District 8 Community Education Council president Laurine Berry, the Department of Education has yet to consider a P.S. 71 annex.
“My class has 32 kids,” Ayala’s son Alex, a third grader, said.
“An extension on our school, like P.S. 72, would be a welcomed relief to our space problem,” Neal wrote in a recent letter to the PS 71 community.