In December of 2017, final approval for the school was granted. It will be completed in the fall of 2021 at the old Paradise Cafe Billiards building located at 38-04 48th Street, and accommodate between 650 and 800 students from sixth to eighth grades.
“We are happy about the newest phase for the school,” said Sean. “Some people we have met have been requesting a middle school for more than 40 years, so this is real progress.”
The McGowan's eldest daughter won't get to attend the new school, but their younger son will.
According to the Department of Education, District 30 is at 112.3 percent capacity, well above the citywide average of 103.5 percent, making it one of the of the most overcrowded in Queens.
The advocacy group Class Size Matters claims there are thousands of students packed in overcrowded classes in Woodside and Sunnyside.
This battle for a new school in Sunnyside began in January 2014, when the McGowan's were kindergarten parents and attended a meeting about zoning at PS 11, discussing how kids would be bused across Northern Boulevard.
The McGowan's were concerned for the children's safety, realized they needed a middle school closer to home, and started looking around the neighborhood for empty lots and buildings.
They came up with ten possible locations, and sent them to local politicians and the School Construction Authority.
Deb said she was initially nervous about approaching her elected officials.
“But if you are courageous enough to put your name behind something, you can get it,” she said. “These politicians are people working on a day-to-day basis trying to make life better for everyone. I went into this with respect, looking to have a conversation. It is so much better to advocate from that stance.”
Their fist supporters were Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Congressman Joe Crowley, with then-assemblywoman Marge Markey, State Senator Mike Gianaris and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer eventually getting behind the proposal.
The McGowan's started a Facebook page, circulated a petition that garnered 850 signatures, held a rally, and marched in the St. Pat's Day for All parade with a banner and 40 supporters.
“As a parent myself of a child coming up on middle school, I saw the need and the urgency to help bring a new middle school to the ever-expanding community,” said Ty Sullivan, who helped organize the rally. “There has been such a groundswell of growth with families in Sunnyside over the last decade.
“We have reached a capacity issue for the amount of schools and seats needed for children to continue their education locally,” he added.
In January of 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $50 million for the school from SCA's Five-year Capital Plan. Supporters had to wait another year for the review process, which gave them cause for concern.
“They had to go over the property because it is adjacent to a landmark neighborhood,” explained Deb. “We want them to take into account the neighborhood design, that it would be vernacular to the neighborhood, and not look like a spaceship landing. They are in the design process at this point.
“We think the next thing we have to look at is the zoning of the school,” she added.
According to CEC District 30 president Deborah Alexander, the zoning decisions will be made in 2018.
“We have always wanted the zone of the school to be between Northern and Queens boulevards, for safety sake,” said Sean.