New York City schools need to build more classrooms as the number of children from immigrant communities is expected to swell, a new report said Tuesday.
Immigrant rights advocates gathered in Queens and pushed for the city's Department of Education to address what they described as an unfair burden specifically on increasingly diverse communities like those in Jackson Heights and Corona.
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Local lawmakers voiced their support for creating a task force through the City Council to bring reforms about that would help the Education Department increase classroom seats citywide after the release of the report by Make the Road New York titled "Where's My Seat."
Diana Zarumeno, 25, told Metro New York she was afraid of what her daughter's overcrowded classroom at P.S. 81 might mean by the time state testing comes around.
Zarumeno said her daughter Joselyn began to notice her kindergarten teacher paying more attention to some classmates given the size of the classroom.
"My biggest concern is for whenever it's her turn to take a state test that she doesn't get to graduate to the next grade," she said in Spanish, adding that she's begun to tutor Joselyn at home herself.
"A teacher can't focus when she has 25 to 30 students in a room, and that's going to affect the children," Zarumeno said.
Local City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said her constituents' experiences over the last two decades merits a deeper look at a larger investment.
"With that understanding and the economic upturn, I think it is the right time to invest in school construction and creating a proper environment for New York City children to learn," she said.
The report pointed to a reliance on temporary classrooms and trailers as inadequate substitutes for permanent learning spaces, which a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said was already a priority for the agency.
“For too long, students have been in overcrowded classrooms and in trailers and we are committed to work with families, educators and partners around how to alleviate this," DOE spokeswoman Kaye Devora said in a statement.
That commitment includes $4 billion dollars and 40,000 new seats, Devora said, adding that the department would engage families, community members and lawmakers "to ensure we are doing everything possible to provide the high-quality facilities that help our students thrive in and out of the classroom."