School overcrowding once again reared its head at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Several speakers during the public participation expressed concerns about the overcrowding situation at several of the city’s schools.
Former City Councilor Fred Capone noted that many of the schools are far exceeding the student capacity for which they were designed: the high school by 400, the Whittier by 150, the Parlin by 250, and the Lafayette by 150.
An appropriation order of several items that totaled $4,014,000 had included a $2 million request for modular units to alleviate overcrowding at the George Keverian that would be placed in front of the school.
Superintendent Priya Tahiliani had explained that the Keverian is overcrowded by about 200 students and needs to have the modular classrooms. She noted that the modular classrooms would not be ready before September, 2023, at the earliest. She also noted that other schools would need to have modular classrooms added to their structures.
However, the line item was removed from the appropriation by the councilors, who all agreed that the the future use of both the old high school and the former Pope John XXIII site should be explored before approving appropriations for modular classrooms.
The councilors voted to retain the following appropriations, which included many items for the schools: School Alarm Panels, $200,000; Keverian School Heat Units, $56,000; Fire Ladder Truck, $76,000; High School Boiler Burners, $40,000; Keverian School Heaters, $12,000; Keverian School Cooling Units, $730,000; and Maddy English Cooling Unit, $900,000.
City Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas noted these amounts were the result of added costs because of inflation from the original time that the money for these projects was appropriated.
Councilors also heard from both Tahiliani and Erin Deveney, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, about both the drawbacks and the positives for using the former Pope John building as a school, rather than for affordable housing.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria has retained an architectural firm to evaluate the Pope John building for school use. The findings should be ready later in the month.
“A quick fix is not good for students,” said Deveney.
Tahiliani added, “Pope John will not fix all the problems.”
“We need to get the facts here … we have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Councilor Richard Dell Isola, reflecting the sentiments of both his fellow councillors and the city’s taxpayers.