Fordham teachers, students fight to save school yard at risk in rezoning plan

Teachers and students at the M.S. 363 Academy for Personal Leadership and Excellence in Forham are upset due to a city rezoning plan that would build a new school right on top of their school yard.
The school uses the area for recess, gym classes, sport practices and serves as a hang out for students.
The Jerome Avenue rezoning project, which was first introduced in 2018, addresses the need for more schools for students in the district.
"There are so many other spaces in the city, that if there truly is a need for a new school, which seems to be doubtful because of the decline in enrollment in the city, they can find someplace else," says teacher Geri Spina.
Teachers also expressed that building a new school on the lot not only takes away a much-needed outdoor space for their students, but it also poses a safety concern.
As an alternative, the city proposed to block off a section of the street next to the school for the students to play on instead. But teachers say that space is not ideal and puts the students' safety at risk.
"I know the things that go around in this neighborhood, and I don't even see it being a safe environment for students to be learning P.E.," says physical education teacher Orosmar Cuevas.
"When I'm standing there, you see beer bottles, you see glass, it's not a street that's clean. A lot of cars are parked there on both sides, it's very narrow," says school social worker Gisela Gravo.
A spokesperson from the New York City School Construction Authority tells News 12 that upon the completion of the new school in 2024, a portion of the school yard would be returned to M.S. 363.