Overcrowding has been an issue for many years at Francis Lewis. The crowds have only increased over the years, but thanks to a new plan, the days of blocked hallways may be numbered.
Students are affected by the crowds in the halls between classes, and as a result are late to class.
“When you’re trying to push through all those people, it’s really time-consuming,” said junior Rajab Butt. “By the time you get to class, you’re already late.”
Rajab’s dilemma is a common problem at Francis Lewis, but it is not overlooked by Principal Dr. Marmor.
“There really is no exact number, but I can tell you that the number is under 4650, and it’s probably over 4500,” Dr. Marmor said. “The reason for the lack of an exact number is that the number of live kids that are here gets calculated on October 31. We’re aggressively looking at our attendance and trying to track down all these missing kids. Did they move? Did they enroll in another school? There is about 150 students of wiggle-room.”
Dr. Marmor is regularly approached about this issue. By his count, he is asked about student overcrowding approximately four times a day.
“A group of four students stopped me on the street as I was walking out of the building and said, ‘why do you take so many kids in the school? We’re seniors now, and it’s the most crowded we’ve seen. You shouldn’t have taken so many kids.’ I said, ‘What gives you the impression that I have, or the school has, any control over who we take, or who goes to school here?’ That’s one of the first misconceptions.”
If the school has no control over enrollment, then how can they regulate the amount of incoming students?
“The only influence we do have is in terms of trying to be proactive in looking at what we call ‘over-the-counter,’” Dr. Marmor said. “Over-the-counter means the students that come in after the first day of school; kids that have transferred into the zone, kids that have moved into the state recently, and kids that are transferring for safety reasons. That enrollment, for us, can be as many as two hundred more kids after we start the first day.
“The only control we have over that is if we think there’s an address issue, or any kind of fraudulence. Attendance teachers will go to people’s houses to make sure they live where they say they live.”
Regulating a problem is not the same as solving it, and Dr. Marmor is well aware of that. In sharing his methods of regulating over-the-counter students, he also shared what he can do with the students in the school right now. He described his plan in stages.
His solution to the ‘short range’ or ‘today’ problems of general overcrowding is creating new classrooms in certain rooms, like the re-purposed book room. Addressing the ‘medium range’ issue will begin next year. Approximately 50 percent of seats in special programs like law and science research will be reclassified to ‘zone-priority,’ meaning at least half of the special program seats will be filled by kids in the Francis Lewis zone. The rest will be filled by kids going through the normal enrollment process. According to Dr. Marmor, this should reduce the incoming class number next year by about 75 to 100 students.”
The ‘long range’ solution is the new annex building that is planned to be built soon. According to Dr. Marmor, the building will add 18 new classrooms, a classroom for a culinary program, a research greenhouse, a new science research lab, and a multipurpose room used for school events. The building will replace the trailers and will be built in the current position of the field house. The new building will also contain field house facilities, removing the need for a new field house.
“The building is supposed to relieve overcrowding, not create space to bring in more students,” Dr. Marmor said.
The building will most likely be open to students in the next two to two and a half years. Sadly, current juniors and seniors won’t see the building finished until they are alumni, but Dr. Marmor predicted that the current class of freshmen will be the first class, when they are seniors, to use the building.
“What I don’t want to go unnoticed is the reason we’re overcrowded. The reason we’re overcrowded is really simple: The school is great and kids want to be here. According to the New York Post’s Top 40 list that just came out, we’re the number one ranked community high school in the city.”