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Noise of passing trains distracts students

Imagine you are in your classroom. A teacher stands up and says, "Class, turn to page . . . " and then, all of a sudden, a train passes by!

Well, you are then hearing what students in PS 85 hear every two to five minutes. When the train passes by, often all you can hear is the rumbling.

Some PS 85 students have developed a signal. They put the peace sign with their hands in the air and a peace sign on their lips. This shows the other students the train is passing by and they should be quiet. Teachers also do this sign.

Other students have gotten used to it. Students who have been in school for a long time don't need to use the hand signals. While the train passes, they just do their work. But it still sometimes bothers these students when they are doing presentations or projects. The train bothers some students when they're taking tests.

Parents like Allen Schulz, whose daughter is in second grade, say they don't want the students to have to get used to the rumbling.

"When my daughter first came to the school, is when I first began learning about the problem," Schulz said. "At first, I didn't think it was so bad, but then after I volunteered in the school and heard what you hear every day, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, we have to fix this.' "

Parents have written letters and organized a rally in front of the school, exactly where you could hear the train noise. Costa Constantinides, the new councilman for Astoria, said he wants to help. He was at the rally in December and has a son who is in pre-K at PS 85.

"I'm working for the parents," he said. "I'm going to work with everyone to resolve this. . . . I knew once I got into office this was something I had to tackle right away."

Some officials have ideas of what kids can do to help: "You've got to spread the word," said State Sen. Michael Gianaris. "You're more powerful spokespeople than we are even."

Many people think we should use special windows, special tiles and even a sound barrier to stop the noise. It is not just for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to fix. It's also for the Department of Education.

"At the end of the day, it's about whether you believe that children should learn in a noise-free environment or whether you don't care about that," says State Assemb. Aravella Simotas. "It's not a huge amount [of money to fix the problem]. It's really getting them to acknowledge the problem and making it a priority."

This would take a long time, but it will help tremendously. Nathaniel Hill, a fourth-grader, said: "I think it will be harder than people might expect."

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