District 3’s Community Education Council characterized proposals for redrawn catchment zones mere “band-aid” solutions to school overcrowding.
The rezoning proposals, which originated with the Department of Education, were the focus of the parent council’s meeting Oct. 2 at Joan of Arc High School, on West 93rd Street.
In mid-September, the department offered two alternative rezoning plans, both tweaking the catchment area for P.S. 199. New residents in the Trump complex on Riverside Boulevard and elsewhere continue to uncomfortably swell that school’s numbers beyond capacity.
One of the plans included moving a small middle school, The Center School, out of P.S. 199’s West 70th Street building, where it has been for more than 25 years, and into P.S. 9’s building, on West 84th Street. The Anderson School, currently housed in P.S. 9, would then move into M.S. 44, on West 77th Street. The other plan would not relocate any schools, but it would focus on greater changes to school zones.
In writing to the parent council, the Center School community voiced strong objections to being relocated, and many Center School parents were in the audience at last week’s meeting.
“There are many solutions out there available to the DOE, and they’re not exploring them,” said Alan Madison, a Center School parent whose children formerly attended P.S. 199.
Center School parents have expressed support for some alternate solutions, such as zoning some of P.S. 199’s students to the nearby, underutilized P.S. 191, providing temporary trailers, or instating a new elementary school in M.S. 44, which has extra space. But many P.S. 199 parents are eager to solve the space crunch quickly, and see the department’s proposal for moving the Center School as a simpler option.
During last week’s meeting, parent council members did not come to a conclusion on the Center School-P.S. 199 question, but instead focused on a district-wide, long-term approach to the problem, stressing that rezoning was acceptable only as part of a package. They said that the department should be addressing overcrowding throughout the district, not just in P.S. 199’s specific zone, and should therefore include plans for new schools to be built and the interim utilization of temporary space.
Members of the parent council also said they hoped that gifted and talented and special education programs could continue unhindered by strict zoning rules. And they felt the district should maintain the popular practices of allowing siblings to attend the same school and offering a lottery, when possible, for students outside the catchment area.
“It’s important in District 3 that families should be able to match their schools to children’s educational styles,” said Jennifer Freeman, a council member, at the meeting, “and that they maintain their ability to move among schools within the district, if it’s not in conflict with overcrowding.”
Before the meeting adjourned, the council decided to visit several schools in the neighborhood to check out space availability and crowding issues firsthand. At press time, they were planning for a second meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 7, in which they would approve a final draft of their response to the department’s rezoning proposals and address the P.S. 199-Center School plans in greater detail.
In booming District 3, where condos are sprouting up, the difficulties brewing in P.S. 199’s building may only be a taste of what’s to come.
“The Upper West Side has become one of Manhattan’s fastest growing neighborhoods over the past decade, but the city has not added any new seats during this building boom or built any new schools,” said State Senator Eric Schneiderman in a statement on Friday, after a city-wide press conference on overcrowding.
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