September 18, 2009
There are no extra desks at a Queens high school where overcrowding has prompted the principal to buy folding chairs to accommodate students.
The Academy of American Studies, a selective high school in Long Island City, shares space with Newcomers High School, and leases a small building across the street.
“It looks like a deli,” said Mir Niaz, a tenth grade student at the Academy.
Niaz said last year’s incoming freshman class had 110 students, but this year’s class has 180, and the sudden increase has overwhelmed the already-cramped space the school has to work with. Now, some students have to sit in folding chairs, which they pull up next to their luckier classmates who have desks and share writing space.
“We got more freshmen than we expected this year,” said the school’s parent coordinator, Jean Mendler. “It’s a temporary solution.”
“It gets really annoying,” Niaz said of sharing desk space. “It really disturbs them and us.”
Students standing outside of the school said that in most of their classes, they were one of about 40 students, exceeding the 34-student limit for high school.
“There’s barely any walking space,” said Jasmin Kasumovic, who is in tenth grade.
The Academy is hardly alone in its struggle to find space for students. A preliminary class size report issued by the United Federation of Teachers shows that Queens high schools are the most overcrowded in the city. Of the 7,209 classes the union has identified as oversized, 4,093 are in Queens high schools.
There could be an upside to the crowding: Schools that see enrollment jumps also get mid-year increases in funding, which would mitigate the budget cuts that took place over the summer as well as cuts that could happen this school year.
The Department of Education has yet to respond to calls for comment — I’ll update when they do. The Academy’s principal, Ellen Sherman, did not return calls for comment.