Despite DOE insistence that the project won’t happen, a renewed effort to land an addition for the school - located at 67th Drive and 80th Street in Middle Village - is gaining some traction.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has taken up the issue, and her office is setting up a walk-through tour of the facility for DOE officials. Crowley’s chief of staff, Lydon Sleeper, said the tour should take place in the next two weeks.
Parent activists at the school, which has roughly 600 students, are asking for more bathrooms, a new gym, and a larger cafeteria. They hope a tour will convince the city an addition to meet those needs is warranted.
“At this point we’re not looking for luxuries for our children, we’re looking for basic necessities,” said Bernadette Beninati, a P.S. 87 parent who is spearheading the drive for an addition.
The school has four toilets for 300 students on its first two floors, according to Beninati, who recently brought the school to the DOE’s attention in a June letter to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
P.S. 87’s gym is in the building’s basement, where students play on a concrete floor beneath low ceilings.
The basement also doubles as the lunchroom, a space that has become so overcrowded in recent years the school has taken to running three different lunch periods, starting at 10:10 a.m., to accommodate all of the students.
“People are turning away because they see that the school doesn’t have the proper facilities,” said another involved parent, Eileen McDonegh, who has two children at the school. “It's kind of ridiculous that we’ve been overlooked and [become] kind of like the forgotten school.”
Since talk of an addition for the school first surfaced in 2000, other schools in the district have benefited from major capital works projects. In that time the DOE has built extensions and/or new buildings at P.S. 49, 113, 119 and M.S. 128.
According to Beninati the DOE granted P.S. 87 an extension in 2000, so long as the then-elementary school changed to a K-8 facility. The school did so soon afterwards.
In 2002, shortly before Mayor Bloomberg was elected and took control of the city’s schools, Beninati said the Community School Board voted in favor of the addition.
DOE Spokesman Will Havemann acknowledged long-standing community support for the plan, but strongly disputed any claims that the DOE at any point promised to build the addition.
“The DOE never proposed an addition for P.S. 87,” Havemann said.
He said the project has also never been included in the DOE’s capital plans since Bloomberg took office, because the school has not shown a need for more seats.
Havemann said the education department is working with Crowley to address community concerns over the school, but said DOE is committed to construction projects with a focus on creating more seats.
P.S. 87 operated at just under capacity this year, and the DOE does not expect enrollment to increase significantly.
By contrast, said Havemann, other schools in the district have growing student populations, the reason why they were given extensions.
Building more seats is “really the priority across the city and in the district,” Havemann said. The education department “has no plans” for an addition at P.S. 87, he added.
Beninati said while parents agree the school does not need more seats, the existing students still need the adequate basic services that are now lacking.
She has proposed an additional building, perhaps on the playground behind the school, that would house a new gym, bathrooms and a large cafeteria.
“I think it's absolutely a fair ask,” said Sleeper. DOE’s upcoming tour of the school to reassess the facility, “is the right next step,” he said.