The city is building an annex on Gravesend’s PS 97 to ease area overcrowding.
The School Construction Authority plans to replace temporary classroom trailers there with a brick-and-mortar addition that includes 450 new desks, art and music rooms, a state-of-the-art science lab, and a gym. The expansion is an attempt to whittle down a 2,400-seat deficit in the borough’s School District 21 and is a sorely needed boost to the grossly overcrowded PS 97, said one educator.
“There are so many children that we haven’t been able to service, because we didn’t have the room,” said Irina Cabello, the principal of PS 97. “I don’t want to lose our kids to other schools. It’s tough not being able to go to your neighborhood school as a student, and it’s hard on our community. I’m very grateful for the new addition.”
Schools in District 21 — which stretches from Gravesend to Brighton Beach — have a total 2,400 pupils more than their buildings are collectively designed for, city data shows. PS 97 alone is packed with 833 students — exceeding the school’s capacity by more than 140, according to city records.
Three of PS 97’s pre-K classes are currently housed in temporary trailers hugging the building, but once the multi-story addition is complete in 2021, the classes will have a permanent home, and there will be room for additional students, educators said.
Officials were short on specifics such as building size, because the project is still in the early stages, they said.
The construction is part of a $100-million project by the School Construction Authority aimed at erasing area overcrowding and will be a boon to the neighborhood’s growing population, according to the local councilman, who advocated for the expansion.
“We are a rapidly growing and evolving community, which means our needs are growing and today’s announcement really underscores the recognition of that need and the commitment to address that need,” said councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island). “This is a great day for our school district and a great day for our community.”
The Department of Education has been forced to rely on trailers to meet overcrowding needs — brick-and-mortar annexes are a rarity, and the ambitious addition is a win for students, according to one Brooklyn educator.
“I’ve never heard of an annex being an actual addition — the only thing I’ve ever encountered is trailers,” said Mercedes Valentin-Davila, a kindergarten teacher at PS 24 in Sunset Park for more than 11 years who taught at the school’s trailer annex for more than two years. “It’s nice for the student to get new facilities, because at the end of the day, a trailer is just a trailer no matter how many more classrooms you fit into it.”
Still, the coming 450 seats are a far cry from the thousands needed for the city to just break even in the area — though they are a step in the right direction, according to Treyger.
The School Construction authority aims expand PS 101 by 462 seats as well for a total 912 new seats in the district by 2024, according to city records.