Queens High Schools Still Crowded

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Queens is always growing and it seems its schools are, too. The United Federation of Teachers says several high schools in the city's second most populous borough seem more crowded than usual this fall.

James Vasquez, the UFT's representative for Queens high schools, says principals are working hard to keep classes from getting too large by reprogramming schedules and adding more teachers. But he says Bayside, Benjamin Cardozo and the new Metropolitan High School are all still crammed with students.

"You have situations in which not only the hallways are crowded but the days are extended," he says. "Because kids are staying later or coming in earlier than they may have before."

The Department of Education confirms that Metropolitan High School, which opened in September, currently has 411 students -- 61 more than the target. Benjamin Cardozo in Flushing has about 40 more kids than expected.

Vasquez attributes the problem to poor planning and says the city should send more students to under-utilized schools. But a Department of Education spokesman says it's too early to make any determinations on class size or enrollment because they're still fluctuating daily. The state gathers final enrollment data on October 31.

Crowded schools don't always correspond with overcrowded classrooms, and vice-versa. Many schools in Queens and throughout the city still have class sizes that are above the contractual limit of 34 in high school subjects and 50 for gym. Vasquez says the Queens High School of Teaching was especially hard hit with dozens of classes above the limit. In early September, the union estimated that 1900 high school classes in Queens were above contractual limits. But that number has since been cut down by more than half. As in previous years, the city resolves many of the disputes just before or during arbitration hearings.

Meanwhile, the union says the situation at Francis Lewis High School - which has more than 4000 students - seems under control. The city and the union went to arbitration hearings over the past few years because of overcrowding. Though it's still packed, the union says no classes are beyond their contractual limits.