from: 1/17/08: Mike gives his girl friend Diana a tour of Richmond Hill High.
It's easy to unite when you pack 3600 kids in a space built for 1800. Samuel Freedman's excellent article in yesterday's nytimes reveals the truth about the education mayor. An excerpt:
Over the past dozen years, Richmond Hill’s most notable architectural accoutrement has been the quote-unquote temporary classroom. Twenty-two of these red metal trailers, encased within chain-link fencing, occupy the school’s former yard, evoking the ambiance of the Port Elizabeth container-ship terminal.
As for the cargo, that would be the students, faculty members and staff. Richmond Hill currently holds more than 3,600 pupils, twice its supposed limit, and could have 4,000 next fall as other neighborhood high schools in Queens are broken into mini-schools with smaller, more selective enrollments. Andrew Jackson, Springfield Gardens and Franklin K. Lane have already closed; next year, Far Rockaway will, too. These days at Richmond Hill, the first lunch period starts at 8:59 a.m., class sizes routinely exceed city and state averages and students have four minutes to negotiate hallways that one biology teacher at the school likens to clotted arteries.
The classroom trailers, never meant for more than a decade of nonstop use, need new walls, ceilings and plumbing. One social studies teacher, Peter McHugh, was reduced last year to conducting class while holding an umbrella against a leaky roof.