From its brass entry doors to its rooftop observatory to the intricate oak paneling of the principal’s office, Richmond Hill High School in Queens was built to inspire something like awe for public education. The only discordant response during the structure’s dedication in 1923 was whether, with a capacity for 1,800 students, it was too large.
A Queens High School With 3,600 Students, and Room for Just 1,800
Nobody asks that question anymore. Over the past dozen years, Richmond Hill’s most notable architectural accouterment has been the quote-unquote temporary classroom. Twenty-two of these red metal trailers, encased within chain-link fencing, occupy the school’s former yard, evoking the ambience of the Port Elizabeth container-ship terminal.
As for the cargo, that would be the students, faculty members and staff. Richmond Hill currently holds more than 3,600 pupils, twice its supposed limit, and could have 4,000 next fall as other neighborhood high schools in Queens are broken into mini-schools with smaller, more selective enrollments. Andrew Jackson, Springfield Gardens and Franklin K. Lane have already closed; next year, Far Rockaway will, too.