Frustrated parents – many of them Irish - have criticized a plan by the Department of Education (DOE) to bus PS 11 kindergarten students in Woodside, Queens and most PS 11 first graders three miles away to PS 171 in Astoria for the school year starting in the fall.
The reasoning behind this plan is that the DOE is building an addition to PS 11 adding more than 300 badly needed extra seats. Construction will take three years and they need to move some 250 children out of the school during construction.
Concerned parents agree that the extension to the school is necessary, but disagree that the youngest students will be bused three miles away from home when better options are available.
Last week parents in the school district took to the streets to publicly oppose the city’s plans to bus the displaced kindergartners to the temporary spot in Astoria.
Joining the group was Congressman Joe Crowley. “I am truly disappointed the DOE has decided to move forward on a plan to bus kindergartners to a school almost three miles away-an extraordinary hardship for Woodside families,” Crowley said.
“While the expansion of PS 11 is a crucial investment in our children’s education, we cannot allow its construction to displace our youngest students so far from home. I call on the DOE to reconsider their decision and find a creative solution to do right by these students and their families.”
Concerned parents spoke to the Irish Voice to highlight their growing concerns.
Donal Murphy, who has children already enrolled in the school and another due to begin in September said, “The new building is absolutely necessary, and we place no blame on the teachers and staff of PS 11 for this terrible situation, but as parents we have concerns.”
He is just one of a number of parents who have been left in the dark as to what supervision will be placed on the buses if the plan goes ahead.
“Another big issue for us is that the new location of PS 171 has limited public transportation, which makes it very difficult for working parents to reach the school in case of an emergency with one of our little ones” Murphy said.
Deirdre Keenan also spoke of the upheaval the move would place on her family.
“My daughter is starting kindergarten, and although we live a five minute walk to PS 11 we are now being forced to consider private school at a cost that we cannot really afford. PS 11 has an excellent reputation, but unfortunately the busing situation has forced us to consider other, more costly options,” she told the Irish Voice.
“The construction should be delayed, or it makes much more sense to bus older children who are more emotionally ready for such a change.”
In an attempt to address the serious overcrowding problems that have long plagued the school in Woodside, the city is planning to add 300 seats in an annex at PS 11 in a construction project expected to begin this summer.
Julianne Connolly and her husband Martin currently have their seven-year-old daughter Lily and five-year-old son Luke enrolled at PS 11. The children are thriving by all accounts.
“It gives us great pride to have our children attend such a fine New York City public school. Our youngest child, Enda, is four years old and attends a UPK program nearby,” Julianne said.
“We had hoped that he would join his siblings at PS 11 in September, but this may not happen now.
The DOE is being pressured to back down as parents see the proposal as a threat to the educational experiences of their youngest children. Many feel that the young children will be emotionally damaged by the experience.
PS 171 in Astoria is a roughly 30-minute bus ride away from Woodside’s PS 11 and more than seven blocks from the nearest subway station.
Local New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer says the DOE needs to reconsider the proposal and transport the displaced students to PS 313 in Sunnyside instead.
The DOE declined to comment on the issue.