“That is not right,” Romero said. “Our families cannot continue to tolerate this busing.”
Romero — who is also president of the PTA at P.S. 110 — was joined on Wednesday, April 16 by parents, students and advocates hailing from Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst at a rally calling for a response to overcrowding in school districts 24 and 30.
Make the Road New York (MRNY) and La Fuente, two organizations that assist immigrants and working-class communities, were both represented at the rally.
Parents and their children shared stories about the issues that have come with the overpopulated schools.
Some talked about children being forced to be bused far from their homes, like Romero, while others discussed their fear of the safety of using trailers instead of classrooms or the problems with filling the pre-k promise in the neighborhood.
“Too many children have used the trailers at P.S. 19. After over twenty years, now is the time for them to go,” parent and leader of MRNY’s Parents in Action Committee Bertha Asitimbay said. “Learning in a trailer over this hard winter makes students more likely to get sick, and I am concerned about their health inside the trailers as well.
“I hope that together we can finally figure out a solution to the problem of overcrowding in the whole neighborhood,” she added, “because all of these issues are connected, and we need a solution for all of us.”
School districts 24 and 30 were referred to as the “epicenter” of overcrowding in New York City at the rally.
Other issues brought up at the rally included the lack of classroom furniture, forcing entire classes to sit on the floor, and students eating lunch either very early or very late, causing them to go for long periods without eating during the course of the school day.
Julissa Ferreras, who represents the neighborhoods in the City Council, expressed her own concerns and efforts to fix the issue of overcrowding in these schools.
She said that although there are plans to bring several new schools to the area, more work needs to be done for more immediate and long-term solutions. She has created an education task force to tackle this exact problem.
“Overcrowding is an issue that not only affects our students who are attending our local schools, but also their teachers, parents and the greater community as a whole,” Ferreras said in a statement. “This year, I look forward to working even more fervently with our local parents, school administrators and [Schools] Chancellor [Carmen] Fariña to devise a holistic action plan that will address our communities’ needs.”
Attendees of the rally invited Chancellor Fariña and School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo to tour the school campuses in the districts as a first step in addressing the schools’ issues.
Department of Education (DOE) spokesman Harry Hatfield said that DOE is trying to fix the issue across the city.
“We're aggressively working to reduce overcrowding and to provide additional seats by constructing new schools in the neighborhoods that need them most, including District 24 and 30,” Hatfield said.
A new building is currently under construction on a new school in Corona at 96-18 43rd Avenue, set to open in September of 2015, that will eliminate the need to bus students to P.S. 110. Until that building is finished, Hatfield said DOE is “committed to continuing to work closely with the school community to solve any busing concerns.”
He also said that between 2013 and 2017, District 30 will add 4,562 elementary, middle and high school seats. Two new schools are slated to open this September. Also, the capital plan for 2015 to 2019 includes funding for approximately 1,912 additional elementary and middle school seats.
For District 24, four new elementary schools, one PS/IS building and one middle school are either being planned or under construction. That will add 4,211 seats between September 2014 and September 2016. In addition, the proposed capital plan would create 4,045 seats in seven new buildings in the district.