Report cites school overcrowding in E. Bronx nabes

P.S. 14 is one of the east Bronx’s most overcrowded public schools. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

A new report for the City Comptroller William Thompson cites several Bronx communities as areas where population increases have precluded school construction.

The report examines educational space in Community School District 8, which comprises much of the eastern Bronx, below Co-op City and above Hunts Point, and concludes a greater need for school construction. 

“The 440 new-capacity seats provided for CSD 8 in the 2005-09 Capital Plan will likely be insufficient to meet needs, at least in Soundview, and in all likelihood Throggs Neck,” according to the study. 

The report continues to show that while, officially, there was space for 4,180 more students, the four elementary schools serving Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay were at 113.6 percent of capacity and that most of the elementary schools in Soundview, Clason Point and Castle Hill also were overcapacity.

A CSD 8 officer states “The 2005-09 Capital Plan barely addresses any of the capacity shortfalls in the eastern part of the district.”

A paragraph in the report questions why the Department of Education considers CSD 8 schools to be under-utilized when elementary schools in Throggs Neck, Pelham Bay, Soundview and Castle Hill had 798 too few seats for their present enrollment.  The population of these neighborhoods is expected to increase significantly.

P.S. 14, located next to the Bruckner Expressway at Hollywood Avenue, is a described as a high performing school in a small space and overcrowded with transportables, or trailer classrooms, while P.S. 304, an in-demand, district-wide lab school, is described as “bursting.”

The report called PS 119 in Soundview “a very popular neighborhood school that is bursting at the seams; their kindergarten is housed in portables,” and added that PS 138 in Castle Hill, “also is overcrowded.”

P.S. 14 PTA president Darlene Leidy was positive about how the school has maintained academic excellence. 

“It’s a tight space, but in terms of students, it’s not a problem,” Leidy commented.  “We’re very fortunate that it’s a small school, but it’s not that bad.”

Her main concern was that  “The 5th grade is a little tight.”

“But compared to some other schools,” Leidy added, “I can’t complain.”

A spokesperson for Community Board 9 stated, “The highest priority for CSD 8 capacity expansion is in Soundview/Castle Hill because of extensive residential development that is occurring there.”   The official stated that the board has urgently requested DOE to address capacity shortages at PS 119 and PS 47, located adjacent to CSD 12; the latter school was at 145%of capacity with both gyms used as classrooms.

Local elected officials have expressed concern over the crowding.  Councilman Jimmy Vacca spoke of the need for more construction of a variety of educational spaces. 

“We have to look at space,” the councilman stated.  “I’m committed to Universal Pre-k, for example, but how can we accommodate it?” 

Vacca said the number of children entering east Bronx elementary schools is up, particularly in the early years, citing parochial tuition increases, placing a higher demand on local public schools.

“It’s hard to make the pieces of the puzzle fit, it’s a challenge all of us should be looking at,” Vacca said.  “Hopefully, I think there’ll be some answers in the next year or two.”

Senator Jeff Klein also expressed some optimism, citing the increased state funding for downstate education.

“I am pleased that in this year’s budget we were able to secure record funding for New York City public schools,” said Klein, citing a $644 million dollar increase in NYC public school spending over the 2007-08 state budget.

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