DOE proposes $17 billion five-year capital plan
by Benjamin Fang
Nov 07, 2018 | 2445 views | 0 0 comments | 162 162 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PS 11 Principal Elizabeth Pena-Jorge can still recall when the Woodside elementary school had eight transportable classrooms several years ago.

With the school and neighborhood population growing, their facility was no longer enough to accommodate all students. The overcrowded school was at 120 percent capacity.

Last October, they opened their $91.8 million addition, an air-conditioned, handicap-accessible annex that has 25 classrooms, two art rooms, a science lab, a dance room and a new cafeteria. More importantly, it allowed PS 11 to house an additional 856 students.

Students, parents and even teachers marveled at their new building.

“This place is very appealing to people,” Pena-Jorge said. “I think they come by just to see it sometimes.”

Last Thursday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and School Construction Authority (SCA) President Lorraine Grillo toured the new facility. They visited two arts classes, interacting with students who were making masterpieces using point and oil pastels.

They also checked out a bilingual classroom, which, given Woodside and District 30’s diversity, was an important part of the school.

The chancellor remarked later that what he saw was students learning and thriving in this new environment.

“The facility not only enables, but it allows students to unleash their creativity,” Carranza said. “What is so clear here today is that when we give students these kinds of state-of-the-art and permanent facilities and resources, we’re helping them to achieve.”

After the visit, Carranza and Grillo unveiled their $17 billion five-year capital plan, the largest-ever proposal for the buildings and facilities in the New York City public school system.

The plan dedicates $8.8 billion in funding to create an additional 57,000 seats over the next five years. The de Blasio administration, Carranza noted, has committed to adding 83,000 seats citywide, and plans to build roughly 88 new school buildings.

The proposal includes $750 million to address the accessibility challenges that students and families have faced for years. The previous capital plan only had $178 million for their accessibility program, officials said.

The investment will mean that one-third of all school buildings in every district are fully accessible. Half of all elementary school facilities will be partially or fully accessible.

The 2019-2024 capital plan would also speed up the Department of Education (DOE)’s AC For All initiative, allowing the city to provide air conditioning in all classrooms by 2021, one year ahead of schedule. Right now, air conditioning is installed in 80 percent of classrooms.

Other investments include $230 million to continue removing trailer classrooms, $750 million to upgrade bandwidth and technology at schools, $550 million for new pre-K and 3-K centers and $650 million for lab upgrades and cafeteria, kitchen and other repairs.

“This proposal is a big step forward in meeting our commitment of equity and excellence for all of our students,” Carranza said. “This is just the first step.”

The DOE will next take the plan “out to the community,” and solicit feedback on what parents and students like and what should be changed. The revised plan will be submitted to the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) for approval next March.

It will then be sent to the City Council and the mayor’s desk for adoption.

Grillo said the SCA’s $5.2 billion in capital investment in existing buildings remains strong.

“This capital plan is a holistic investment in our schools and children of all ages,” she said. “We’re building for our future.”

Advocates pushing for more accessible schools applauded the capital plan announcement. A report earlier this year found only one in six schools are currently ADA compliant.

“We did the math a few years ago, and speaking to families, it became clearer and clearer that we needed more accessible options at every school level,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator with Advocates for Children. “The long-term goal is obviously full accessibility.”
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