Parents and teachers of a Manhattan public school are coming together to demand the Department of Education make classroom space available for students who currently attend class in trailers. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
At P.S. 48 in Washington Heights, kindergartners spend their days learning inside two trailers. But parents say they're are also home to families of rodents and a growing mold problem.
"The condition that those trailers are in, children shouldn't be in. And you know, if that was a landlord, do you know how many citations he would have gotten?" said Ernesto Velasquez, a P.S. 48 parent.
"You see this weather? When they have lunch, they have to cross over through this weather. Some of them don't have umbrellas. When it snows, they have to cross over. When it's icy or freezing, they have to cross over," said Ammanuel Guzman, a P.S. 48 parent.
There are 352 classroom trailers in schoolyards across the city. As NY1 first reported in September, they were supposed to be a temporary fix to overcrowded school buildings in the 1990s and were designed to last about a decade. Now they're falling apart yet about 12,000 students continue to attend class in them every day.
"This is another environmental justice issue. The trailers are predominantly in lower income communities and communities of color around the city," said Mark Ladov of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
And while advocates are sounding the alarm over this issue citywide, they held a press conference Tuesday outside P.S. 48 where they say the situation is particularly puzzling.
They say the top two floors are all administrative offices, half of which are empty.
At least one person assigned there says some teachers who have been removed from their schools pending disciplinary hearings are in some of those offices, meaning the space is being used as a so-called "rubber room."
"These floors on top, where they have these offices, and basically using them for storage and whatever they are using them for? That's where the children should be and that should be in the trailers," Velasquez said.
DOE officials say the school custodian checked the trailers on Tuesday and found no mold.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says his administration is committed to eliminating trailer classrooms citywide over the next five years and is hoping to set aside half a billion dollars in the DOE's capital plan to do so.
The money would be used for removing the trailers, though some City Council members are concerned there is no plan to determine where the students will go.