Representatives from the Department of Education (DOE), the Community Education Council District 2 (CEC) and community members convened on Oct. 9 to discuss a proposed school district rezoning for Greenwich Village/Chelsea and Midtown East.
The proposed Greenwich Village/Chelsea rezoning map, available on the CEC’s website, impacts current PS zones 3, 11, 41 and 130. The Midtown East rezoning splits current PS 116 zone vertically to allow for the new school building being built in the area, and rearranges current zones 267, 59 and 40.
A member of the PTA from PS 116’s zone said of the redistricting: “We need to get it done right, not just get it done.” The PTA member said the proposal, which cuts her zone in half, would ultimately hurt school funding.
“The superior status of our school needs to be maintained,” she said.
John Keller, representing PS 59, said his school’s zone was also disproportionately reduced by the plan and “families look for zoning lines that are consistent and reliable.”
This sentiment was echoed by community members and parents who spoke of buying homes based on careful consideration of school districts.
One father, who lives in current zone 59, said people, like his own family, spend a great deal of money moving to places based on the school in their zone or district. “We put a lot of money on the line,” he said, becoming emotional. “We thought this would be our zone forever.”
“The DOE said the most important thing is sustainability,” he said. “Redrawing the lines every year is not sustainability.”
A spokesperson from the CEC explained that endless rezoning battles, such as this one, are merely a fact of life as student populations grow rapidly in the city.
“It’s impossible to plan anything far enough in advance,” he said. “The population of kids is going up faster than we can build to keep up.”
He also emphasized the importance of schools having set zones when they are built, saying that in the process of alleviating overcrowding, trade-offs will inevitably take place. These trade-offs include families being shifted to new school districts.
The CEC spokesperson conceded that in a perfect world the desired balance and aesthetic of school zones would be attainable, but the new school being constructed needs a defined zone for the 2014-2015 school year.
In response to the complaint that this proposal was presented too abruptly, the spokesperson said it would indeed have been ideal to start the process further in advance to give families more time to acclimate to the changes.
A representative from Community Board 5 expressed concern East Side schools will all be at or over capacity in the next five years.
“Why are schools not built to fully address capacity problems?” she asked DOE members.
Ella, the mother of a 4-year-old, told community members she believes there is an agenda by the DOE and CEC and “[they] need to get an independent consulting firm onboard,” a suggestion met with applause and agreement by community members.
Other parents and community members also expressed concern about how new school district areas would reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of schools. Community members who spoke called, overwhelmingly, for the process to be put on hold while numbers and issues of diversity were more accurately addressed and factored into the equation.
To this, DOE and CEC representatives reiterated the crucial importance of giving students a school zone to call their own from day one, despite perceived issues linked to school diversity.
“Every school deserves an identified community,” said the CEC spokesperson.
The next meeting to discuss the Greenwich Village/Chelsea and East Side proposals will take place Oct. 24 at PS 3.
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