March 10, 2016 By Michael Florio
The Jackson Heights and Corona school communities gathered last week to celebrate nearly a billion dollars that the City has committed to new school construction over the next several years.
In an amendment to the Department of Education’s capital plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed an additional $868 million for new school construction throughout the city.
This funding is part of a $1.4 billion increase to the DOE’s adopted five-year capital plan (2015-2019).
It will cover the creation of an additional 11,800 new school seats.
“A good chunk of that will go to Districts 24 and 30,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said, referring to the two local – and famously overcrowded – Queens districts. “It will create new seats in the neighborhood and reduce class size.”
According to the capital plan, District 24, which includes Corona, needs to create 9,403 seats to serve its students. The budget covers 4,869 of those seats.
“This is an enormous victory for the families of school districts 24 and 30 who have struggled with overcrowded schools for over 20 years,” Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said. “Now that we have the money, we need to be aggressive in siting and constructing new schools in the areas that need them most.”
District 30, which includes Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, needs to create 5,975 seats, 4,536 of which are funded.
While Dromm could not reveal any specific locations that are being considered for new schools, he did say that several locations in Jackson Heights and Corona are being considered.
“The funding is there, the issue remains finding the sites,” he said. “We are excited. Now we just need to find sites.”
Some of this funding will also go toward the constriction of a school at the former White Castle Headquarters, located at 69-01 34th Ave. Construction will begin in 2017, and Dromm is hopeful it will open come 2019.
While Dromm stated that this new funding is good news for the city, he added that it is just the beginning. Going into this process he said that he and Ferreras-Copeland identified a need for $5 billion in additional funding to the School Construction Authority.
“We still need about $4 billion to meet the overall need City-wide,” Dromm said.
It is estimated that 540,000 City students study in overcrowded schools, and the that more than 80,000 seats are needed.