More than half of the city’s 1.1 million public school students attend overcrowded schools, according to a new report from the watchdog group Class Size Matters.
Despite the Department of Education’s addition of more seats and new buildings, many families feel the situation is getting worse as existing seats are being chipped away due to lost leases, schools being co-located together, or the elimination of annexes, mini-buildings and trailers housing temporary classrooms, according to the report released Thursday.
As trailers housing temporary classrooms — with nearly 8,000 seats — are expected to be phased out entirely, it may further strain school buildings, the report warns.
Roughly 575,000 students attended schools in 2015-2016 that were at or above 100 percent capacity, the report said, citing Department of Education enrollment data.
From the Queens Chronicle:
School Construction Authority officials on Monday said they have the money ready to alleviate overcrowding in overutilized school districts, such as SD 24 in southwest and western Queens, but a lack of available space remains their main obstacle.
“The hardest job of the SCA is to try and find real estate,” Michael Mirisola, director of External Affairs at the SCA, told members of the Borough Board during the annual update of the agency’s five-year capital plan. “We have brokers in every borough, in every district. We are constantly doing tests to see if a site will hold a school. We go through that exercise many times during the week and some of them just don’t pass muster.”
School District 24 has consistently been one of the most overcrowded in the city — as of February of this year, its average school utilization rate was 115 percent.
Mirisola said the SCA is always open to tips on available space to fit a school, yet many suggested sites are ultimately deemed unfit for an educational facility.
“Generally, the No. 1 reason is size,” he said. “If it’s a funded need and we don’t have a project, it’s because we’re looking for a location.”
Lots suitable for a new school site must be 20,000 square feet, the SCA official said, in addition to “other specifications and other requirements.”