N.Y. school with major overcrowding issue

October 30, 2009 3:26:08 PM PDT
It's the biggest high school in New York City. The school is so big, the first lunch period is at 9 a.m., but that isn't keeping parents from wanting to have their students attend school there.

Thirteen times a day, the hallways at Francis Lewis High School disappear under the crush of students changing classes.

"I rush, I try to get there as quick as I can to class. I forget that there's people everywhere and i just push, shove and get to class," said Louisa Garcia.

Negotiating the crowds can require individual techniques.

"I squeeze in between people because they're so tall and stuff," said Nile Walker. He adds, "I'm so small compared to them. I can just ease in and out."

On every school day, the final shift of freshmen and sophomores arrive at the school, as part of a schedule that runs from 7:00 a.m. until after 6:00 p.m. It means Francis Lewis alternates as the most populated high school in the city.

"As crowded as the hallways are, they are respectful of each other and they get through this without issue on a daily basis," said Principal Musa Ali Shama.

Although the building could hardly be more crowded, most of the 4,500 students really want to be there. For this year's freshman class, with 1,000 available seats, there were 13,000 applicants.

The six lunch periods, which start of 9:00 a.m., are actually a scheduling tool, because the crowds mean free classroom space for those periods.

Classes seem under control, even though teachers have an average of five classes with 34 students in each class.

"We focus on making sure kids don't fall through the cracks and we use technology systems in order to accommodate that," adds Principal Ali Shama.

A variety of activities, clubs and classes help keep the students interested.

Administrators and students would like to see relief from the overcrowding, and there are plans being discussed to reduce the student population.

Web Produced By: Scott Curkin


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