Whether accused of a money-making scheme to rip off parents or shielding its current principal from two no-confidence votes, the folks running P.S. 333 can’t seem to catch a break. Over the past seven years, the Manhattan School for Children has fallen into further scrutiny for remaining disguised as an ugly construction site.
The Chrysler Building took just under two years to construct and the Empire State Building took just over a year. As an enraged parent told ABC7, “… it has taken over seven years to fix the roof and facade [of P.S. 333], it’s unacceptable.”
The organization which handles the design, construction and renovation of NYC schools is the School Construction Authority. Following recent backlash (and a recently launched petition to end construction), its spokesperson, Kevin Ortiz, released an official statement:
“The extensive and complex work of repairing exterior masonry, parapets and the roof of an 80-year old, landmarked building was compounded by issues with the original contractor. A new contractor has been brought in. Unfortunately, the added work of remediation and completing the project along with the temporary pause of all work due to COVID has added to the overall duration. We understand the urgency and impact on the school and are committed to completing this vital work by the latter end of next year.”
Many studies detail the environmental impact on student learning, well-being and intellectual development. A 2009 study states “buildings are complex visual objects in children’s environment, they represent one of the most frequent subjects of children’s drawings, second only to humans and animals… elaboration is influenced by general intellectual development… the forms and structures, rounds and arches, window and door fittings, two-sided houses and perspective all rose steadily with [children’s] intellectual development. It seems that children do feel a strong connection to the buildings they experience.”
A seventh grader enrolled at PS 333 since kindergarten has always associated school with a construction site. This young person is incapable of separating their relationship to education from the aesthetic of an uncompromisingly ugly, window-obstructed facade.
For these students, if an image of their education were to materialize they might imagine their school. A historic building suffocated by uninspired packaging, wire fences, scaffolding and black plastic netting to block all windows from the sun. If we cannot escape this imagery of packaging, perhaps we should utilize it by shipping out whoever is responsible for this neglect and mismanagement of childhood education.