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District 6 parents renew calls to move students out of classroom trailers

Parents rallied outside a Washington Heights elementary school again Friday to ask the city to speed up plans to move kindergarten students out of classroom trailers.

About 20 parents cheered as District 6 parent leaders explained the moldy conditions of two trailers behind P.S. 48 and called on the Department of Education to discuss how to remove the temporary classrooms more quickly. The rally extends the advocacy efforts of parents at P.S. 48, which started in April when parents described the conditions in the trailers as hazardous and requested that the trailers be removed.

The city has released a capital plan outlining how it plans to remove classroom trailers citywide—but as with many system-wide changes, it isn’t enough of a commitment for parents whose students are already dealing with the problem.

Miriam Aristy-Frer, president of the district’s Community Education Council, said she wants the city to prepare to close the trailers this summer, rather than have at least one more year of kindergarteners attend classes in them.

“We understand it’s a priority, but that is not good enough to give us a 2016 date. We do not want children in kindergarten in trailers for September 2014,” she said.

The Department of Education has said the trailers are safe and inspected regularly. A department spokeswoman said the department is monitoring the trailers, but that there is no “active” mold and that a leak in one trailer’s sink had been repaired last week.

The city’s capital budget proposes eliminating 300 classroom trailers across the city in the next five years, though the department has not committed to a date for removing the trailers from P.S. 48.

The budget also sets aside $3.3 billion to alleviate overcrowding in schools, but District 6 isn’t one of the districts slated to receive new seats. Adding to the complication, local education advocates say the issue could be resolved without building new classrooms.

Tory Frye, a parent and member of the education council, noted that P.S. 48’s problem doesn’t require additional space, since the school could move the two kindergarten classes into underused space in the building’s top floor that is used by District 75 administrators and the school support organization’s offices, she said.

“It’s administrative space, and it’s ridiculous how it could take more than a day to figure out,” Frye said.

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