Close to 200 parents and neighborhood residents heard Carrie Marlin, director of planning for the Education Department, present proposed zoning changes for popular Park Slope schools on Wednesday night at a meeting of the District 15 Community Education Council. Joyce Szuflita of nyc school help was at the meeting. Here's her rundown.
District 15 Community Education Council President Jim Devor said rezoning discussions began two years ago around the collaboration between District 13 and District 15 to build a new and larger building in the Gowanus neighborhood to house PS 133. PS 133 was re-located to a small Catholic school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, while construction is underway on the new building which will open in fall of 2013 and will serve students from both districts.
The rezoning plan presented last night would reduce enrollment at PS 321 and PS 107 and adjust the zones of two nearby schools, PS 39 and PS 10 without increasing their enrollment. PS 39 would not need to grow because the new school would lie within its zone and some students would go to there. PS 10, a larger school, has historically been able accept students from outside its zone because it has not filled from within its zone. The changes, if approved, would take effect for the 2013-14 school year.
A small portion of the southwestern end of PS 321 and the western end of PS 39 would be reassigned to a new school that would serve 275-335 students in the St. Thomas Aquinas building. Residents of two blocks near the park between 4th and 5th Streets (between 7th Avenue and Prospect Park West) woiuld be transferred from PS 321 to PS 39 to keep enrollment level at PS 39. PS 107 would lose five blocks on their western and southern sides to PS 10.
These changes would only impact incoming new students or kindergartners. All currently enrolled students would remain in the schools they attend. Siblings on the affected blocks could attend the school that their siblings attend.
The new school on 4th Ave. and 8th St. would open with kindergarten and 1st graders, adding a grade per year until 2017. It was suggested that the empty classrooms in the first few years of the new school be utilized as a neighborhood pre-kindergarten.
There was enthusiastic applause whenever the idea of turning St. Thomas Aquinas into an Early Childhood Center was mentioned. Representatives from the offices of NYS Assembly Members, Joan Millman and Jim Brennan, spoke in favor of such a center.
However, Principal Liz Phillips of PS 321, and Brad Lander, local City Councilperson, who had previously been hopeful that an early childhood center would ease overcrowding at other neighborhood schools, said that they were now persuaded that the early childhood model would not solve the problem in the long term. Previously opposed to the rezoning, both said they understand that the plan presented last night may be the only lasting solution to dire overcrowding.
News about PS 133 was minimal. It is being talked about as a "school of choice" for districts 13 and 15, meaning that families from both districts could apply. If there are more applicants than seats, a lottery would take place. Parent members of the District 15 council said they are concerned that the District 15 seats in the 133 building would be a diverse socio-economic group. There are long standing severe crowding issues in Sunset Park that will not be resolved by this current rezoning and they are hopeful that PS 133 may help to relieve some of that pressure, they said.
A 45 day review period begins now. The CEC is holding a planning meeting tentatively scheduled for Nov. 7 at 6:30 at 131 Livingston St. [Nov. 5 update: Meeting was cancelled] If the final plan is approved by the CEC, it will come up for a vote at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting in January.
Here is the contact information given out at the meeting:
• Community Superintendent Anita Skop,
, (718) 935-4317