Elected officials joined school leaders to officially unveil the much-needed building annex, a $91.8 million addition that will house an additional 856 students.
The air-conditioned, handicap-accessible annex contains two pre-K classrooms, eight kindergarten rooms, 30 standard classrooms, two special education rooms and two speech resource rooms.
It also has two new art rooms, a science lab, a multipurpose room, a library media center and new school yard.
“The children of Woodside have the space they need to receive a well-rounded education, become college-ready and prepare for the 21st century,” said principal Elizabeth Pena-Jorge.
The overcrowded school was at 120 percent capacity, and for many years used trailers as classrooms. Three years ago, when the demolition and construction for the addition began, some students were sent to other schools.
The younger students took the bus to PS 171 in Astoria, while fifth and sixth graders walked over to PS 361 in Woodside. That often meant complications for parents of those students.
But with the completion of the annex, Pena-Jorge said now all 1,043 students can be in the same building.
“Now we are one big, happy family,” she said through tears.
At Friday’s ceremony, parents and visitors enjoyed musical performances from PS 11’s students, including a rendition of “I’m Proud to be an American.” Other students spoke about how much they loved the new and improved school.
“When I get off the bus, I see the lights and I know I’m welcome,” said Lamel, a fifth grader.
“Our new building is gorgeous, inside and out,” added Alejandra Vasquez, a sixth-grade student.
“When you come to PS 11, you come as a stranger and leave as a friend.”
Teacher Linda Malone said her favorite part about the annex is the stairwell by the entrance. It has floor-to-ceiling windows and unobstructed views.
“I was in awe of how bright, shiny and new everything looked,” she said.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer described the process it took to open the annex as “a long, long journey,” with many ups-and-downs.
“Those who know of this addition know that it did not come without a huge fight,” he said. “At one point, there was money in the budget for this addition, and then the money was taken away.
“We knew we had to get the money back to make this a reality,” he added. “Even after we got the money back in, there was still some discussion about whether or not it was worth it, whether or not it could be done.”
Ultimately, they fought for the annex and insisted “it was worth it,” Van Bramer said.
“When you see the faces of these children, when you see what’s happening here, it is a very special place,” he said.
“It really does make you want to come to school,” Assemblyman Brian Barnwell added.
Lorraine Grillo, president of the School Construction Authority (SCA), called the addition “absolutely beautiful.” Although she sometimes hears that the agency spends a lot of money, she said it’s “never too much money” when it comes to children.
“We always knew it was worth it,” Grillo said. “Was it going to be tough? Oh yeah, but we made it happen with your help.
“At the end of the day, it was a fantastic opportunity for us to finally give this school and this community what it deserves,” she added.