Even if the sun decides to show up this spring, it won’t matter to the kids at – city officials have revealed that it will be close to three years before construction is complete that will allow students to return to the school playground.
Parents at the school fumed after School Construction Authority officials told them that repairs to the landmark building at Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street will take 18 months – after an initial 13 months of planning.
The school has been hemmed in for by a network of scaffolding that blocks all access to the school's playground and other outdoor spaces, and parents say that the affects are already starting to make their way into the classroom.
“I think that there’s a real correlation between physical activity and school performance,” said Susan Moesker, PTA Co-President. She said that both her second grad son and kindergarten daughter have already expressed “deep levels of unhappiness at not being able to go outside.”
According to Moesker and other parents, teachers have also already reported that children have been particularly unfocused and agitated in classes since the scaffolding went up.
One parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, even reported that himself and a host of other PS 39 families are already looking into transferring their children to different schools.
“The kids are like inmates in a prison, they don’t want to go to school,” said the parent. “It’s much more than a construction project. It could leave a lot of long-term scars on the kids and community. I am looking at any alternative options that I can.”
The SCA began building the scaffolding in response to an assessment made over spring break that the cornices on the landmarked 1877 building were in danger of falling. The condition is of particular concern because a 16-year-old student at PS 131 was killed by a falling cornice in 1998.
But the timing of the incident is particularly ill-timed: the small, crammed school has little free indoor space and two of the main additional spaces the school utilized – the Park Slope Library next door and J.J. Byrne Park – are both also under construction.
“The space that’s now occupied by the scaffolding was the social space, morning lineup space, meeting space and pretty much everything else,” said Moesker. “Inside the physical school there is not one room big enough to hold all of the students.”
To relieve some of the tension, Principal Anita de Paz worked out a deal with the city to turn Eighth Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues into a play street beginning Monday.
“While we still have the design and bid portions of this project to come, we’ve been very clear that the actual construction project will last 18 months from beginning to end,” said Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a spokesperson for the Department of Education. “We’re committed to getting this done in the most efficient manner possible for PS 39 families.”
But parents, teachers, and de Paz say that it’s not a big enough solution – the construction process needs to be sped up.
"I think that that's unacceptable," de Paz has told Patch. She said that she hopes to convince the school authorities to expedite the process. "I think that whatever concessions can be legally and officially made in an emergency situation – which this is – should be done."