School overcrowding to worsen, waitlists splitting up siblings

BY ALINE REYNOLDS |  Starting next fall, Soho resident Faridah Crispe might have to make four trips a day to accompany her children to and from elementary school.

“I want to be able to drop off and pick up my kids. We spend limited time with them as is, but I’m not really sure how we’re going to do it,” said Crispe, whose five-year-old daughter, Lyla, is on a long waitlist at P.S. 130, where her sister, Miriam, is currently in second grade.

Crispe said she would be very disappointed if her daughter was denied a spot in the school.

“I have no negative [feelings] towards the other public schools, but P.S. 130 academically is the best fit for my children,” Crispe said.

Lyla is one of 16 prospective P.S. 130 kindergarteners whose older siblings attend the school but might be denied admission there, per a recent decision by the N.Y.C. Department of Education.

The D.O.E. has granted 28 waitlisted P.S. 234 pre-kindergarteners spots at P.S. 130, a high-ranking elementary school on Baxter Street that is equally overcrowded. The D.O.E. is prioritizing acceptance of the Tribeca youngsters over the P.S. 130 waitlisted children whose out-of-zone siblings attend the school.

In this scenario, neighborhood families could have to arrange separate trips to two schools when dropping off and picking up their children.

“It’s never fair to parents to have to organize their travels to bring the children to different schools,” said P.S. 130 Principal Lily Woo, who has reservations about the plan.

The principal intended to fill the additional kindergarten class she requested for next year with her own waitlisted siblings, not with P.S. 234 children.

The faulty setup, Woo said, could cause families to take their older children out of P.S. 130 and move them to the school their younger children attend. “If they pull the kids out, there are fewer students on my register which we’ll lose funding for,” she said.

Greenleaf and other P.S. 234 parents are equally perturbed by the D.O.E.’s decision. “It puts the principal in a difficult situation where she wants to be welcoming and enthusiastic to the families, but also needs to think of the families that are already there,” he said.

“It sets a precedent of splitting up families and sending kids to a different Community District,” said Tribeca parent Christine Brogan, whose four-and-a-half-year-old son was recently offered a seat at P.S. 130. The plan also doesn’t account for the significant end-of-summer enrollment P.S. 130 typically experiences, Brogan said, and would likely separate Tribeca siblings in the future.

Brogan and other P.S. 234 waitlisted parents started a petition last week, appealing the D.O.E.’s decision to assign the surplus P.S. 234 youngsters to P.S. 130 and suggesting that the Department incubate the Peck Slip school at either P.S. 397 (Spruce Street) or P.S. 276 next fall and send their children there. As of June 8, they had collected 585 signatures and plan on sending the petition to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and D.O.E. Portfolio Development Director Elizabeth Rose.

The parents’ opposition to the plan, they stressed, has nothing to do with the caliber of P.S. 130, but with the school’s approximately one mile distance from Tribeca – contrary to concerns they previously raised to other media outlets about the school’s strict policies and foreign influence. “What makes an elementary school successful is the community that surrounds and nurtures it. It’s impossible to do that at P.S. 130, [given the distance,]” said education activist Tricia Joyce, whose twin girls attend P.S. 234. “We can’t afford to be pitted against each other. It’ll set off immeasurable discomfort and conflict. We have to stand together hand-in-hand and say, ‘this is not good for our children.’”

Though Woo runs a “wonderful” program, sending Tribeca youngsters to P.S. 130 is not a viable option, echoed P.S. 234 waitlisted parent Marc Siden.“Part of their education is nurtured by [parents’] involvement in the community,” he said. “As a Tribeca parent, you can’t just run over to that school and help out.”

Like many other Tribeca parents, Brogan and Siden haven’t explored private school options because they expected their children to be offered a spot at one of the community’s “strong” public schools.

“We were never told of P.S. 130 as a potential alternative… they just let us know a few days ago,” said Siden.

Equally frustrating, he and the other waitlisted families only have until Friday, June 10, to accept or reject the alternative offer. “It’s not enough time to seek out alternatives if we wanted to go that way,” said Siden.

Meanwhile, Woo expects parents to commit to sending their child to P.S. 130 once they accept a seat there. “We don’t want to them to think of us as a temporary structure… they have to understand that, once they come and accept a seat in our school, they’re in our school. It’s the only way we can have a cohesive school,” she said.

P.S. 234 Parent Coordinator Magdalena Lenski said that, the day waitlisted families received letters, they expressed concern, but that she has received few complaints since. “A number of parents called me after the [P.S. 130] tour last week, saying how pleased they were with [the school],” she said, noting that children who accept a seat at another public school may still reserve their spot on the P.S. 234 waitlist.

The school, which will accept approximately 125 kindergartners next year, anticipates to lose between five and seven registered kindergartners between now and the fall. “As soon as we get a cancellation, we call the next person off the wait list, and we’ll keep on doing that through mid-October,” said Lenski.

P.S. 234 Principal Lisa Ripperger did not return calls for comment.

D.O.E. Spokesperson Barbara Morgan defended the Department’s decision in a written statement, saying only, “P.S. 234 is a very popular school that received a high number of applications this year, and the reality is that it simply cannot accommodate all of those applications. As a result, alternate offers were made to a number of families who had been waitlisted at P.S. 234 to P.S. 130, which is a very high quality school.”

P.S. 130, Morgan added, has received an “A” on each of its last three progress reports. The decision to offer Tribeca youngsters seats there, the spokesperson noted, has nothing to do with the Department’s plan to rezone Lower Manhattan schools in 2012.

“I’m concerned, obviously. These are young children, and I don’t want to send them out of the neighborhood,” said NYS Assembly Speaker and School Overcrowding Task Force Leader Sheldon Silver, responding to the news. “That’s why we keep the pressure to keep building schools here.”

Overcrowding expected to worsen, warns Greenleaf

The recent announcement of the Peck Slip school provided only temporary relief to Downtown parents, some of whom anticipate frightening overcrowding in neighborhood elementary schools in the years to come.

The city Department of Education needs to open two more Lower Mamhattan elementary schools by 2015 in order to avoid severe overcrowding, according to P.S. 234 parent Eric Greenleaf, who provided an update on current and future Downtown school capacity at the school’s Parent-Teacher Association meeting on Thurs., June 2.

The neighborhood’s population and residence count have more than doubled since 2000, according to city and census data Greenleaf compiled. In 2009 alone, nearly 1,000 babies were born in Community District 1 — a 46 percent increase since 2005. The district is slated to have at least 70,000 residents by next year.

Contrary to the D.O.E.’s claims, current and future capacity levels of Downtown elementary schools, Greenleaf noted, are insufficient to accommodate the population surge. “If births go up by 46 percent, the D.O.E. must plan for school enrollment being up 46 percent. It’s simple arithmetic,” he said. “They need a solution and they need it really, really fast. It takes a long time to build a new school and, frankly, we’re running out of time.”

Even with the Peck Slip school incubator opening in 2012, Downtown public schools can only take in 400 kindergarteners per year, prompting a shortage of 182 kindergarten seats and an overall shortage of 388 elementary seats by 2014. The Peck Slip school, slated to have 476 seats, will be at full capacity once it opens at its permanent location in 2015, according to Greenleaf.

“If you open up a new school in a particular year, you’re not supposed to fill the school that year,” he said, since the school will have no room to expand by one grade per year thereafter.

In order to lessen overcrowding, the D.O.E. has historically proposed to relocate 5th grade students from P.S. 89 and P.S. 234 to schools in Chelsea; and I.S. 289 students to P.S. 1. and I.S. 131, both in Chinatown.

Neither option, however, is suitable, Greenleaf said. If the D.O.E. doesn’t quickly devise another solution, he said, overcrowding will worsen and eventually negate the area’s $30 billion post-9/11 redevelopment. “People are just going to move out if the city refuses to back up all this development with schools,” he said.

Greenleaf encouraged neighborhood parents to write Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressing their concerns and to continue putting pressure on the D.O.E. to reserve the Tweed Courthouse classrooms for Downtown children after the Peck Slip school incubates there.

“The D.O.E. has listened in the past and built new schools Downtown when we presented compelling evidence and made our voices loud enough,” he said. “These new schools will happen only if we work together.”

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3 Responses to School overcrowding to worsen, waitlists splitting up siblings

  1. nnKudos to you for writing this article! u00a0I (and Iu2019m surenmany parents at P.S. 130) are happy to finally see an article that is reportingnthis devastating issue from the perspective of the families who applied to P.S.n130 as well as those who applied to P.S. 234. Other articles and blogs havenlost focus and digressed to personal complaints resulting in a loss ofnattention to the real issue; the need to correct an ill conceived decision,nmade by the Department of Education, that affects children across multiplenschools and will result in the displacement of children from their local schoolnarea, split younger siblings from older siblings (now and in years to come),nand will set the precedent to eliminate the sibling rule for children.nnIt is MOST important that people realize that this poorly conceived decision tonoverride existing processes and sibling policies affects families in bothnschools. u00a0My daughter is one of the victims of this situation. What do younsay to your 5 year old when they ask u201cWhy am I not going to the same school asnmy older sister (who is in 4th grade)?u201d Which is followed by the obvious next question "Where will I be going to school then?" A question for which there is no answer. With inevitable conflicts innrequests for volunteer support and financial support, which school does thenfamily choose? One shouldn't ignore the significant issue of managing drop-offsnand pick-ups which occur at the same time about a mile apart.nnIn the case of the children who were registered for P.S. 234 this action by thenDepartment of Education offers an accommodation to keep these childrenntogether; But what of the P.S. 130 children? Many of the children who arenwait-listed for P.S. 130 already attend Pre-K at P.S. 130 and many have siblingsnin the school as well, but they are now being forced to find some other schoolnwith no offer to keep them together. Why is there such a difference inntreatment for these children? It is unclear what arguments/policies were usednby the D.O.E. to arrive at this unbalanced solution.nnBased on the Department of Educationu2019s policies (found on their website), thenthree primary admissions priorities are: u201c1 – Zoned students with a sibling whonwill be in grades 1-5 at the school in 2011-2012;u201d, u201c2 – All other zonednstudentsu201d, u201c3 – Students residing in the schoolu2019s district but outside thenschoolu2019s zone, with a sibling who will be in grades 1-5 at the school inn2011-2012u201d. The blatant disregard for the Department of Educationu2019s ownnpolicies when creating this situation should be corrected immediately with anfocus on finding a solution that will work best for all. u00a0Based on whatnIu2019ve read, many proposals have been outlined but no official statement has beennmade regarding even the consideration of these proposals.nnOne other key fact that is missing in all of the articles and blogs that Iu2019venread is how schools will be negatively affected by this disjoining of siblings.nWith the current budget cuts the lifeblood of schools now comes from monies andnvolunteer time graciously given by families. u00a0Schools will suffer greatlynfrom the loss of the generosity of these families. I speak of this havingnexperienced the need to split one's focus and time between a younger childu2019snelementary school and an older childu2019s middle school.u00a0nnSolutions exist that are amenable to the parents of those who registered for P.S.n234, and the proper assignment of wait-listed children registered for P.S. 130nwill resolve an unjust and unfair displacement issue. Why not fix this problemnnow before it escalates further (ie into a legal battle)?nnnnnIt is unacceptable to allow the Department of Education tondelay the resolving of this issue any longer. Any proposal which involvesnwaiting until the Fall 2011 School year begins should be immediately andnpublicly rejected. Continued effort by parents, schools and supporting newsnagencies is required so that the Department of Education will provide ansolution before the end of the current 2010-2011 school year.nnnnPlease continue to keep the public aware and focused on this most distressingnissue. We MUST ensure that a precedent is not being set here which could affectnchildren and siblings in future years.nnEdn(a parent/volunteer for over a decade at P.S. 130 and a parent of a wait-listednpre-K child in P.S. 130)nu00a0nn

  2. R. Rassendyll

    There is plenty of blame to go around here.nnI am no fan of Boss Bloomberg.u00a0 During his eight legit years and two hijacked years as mayor, the population growth south of Canal Street has been a well-understood phenomenon.u00a0 Indeed, the Boss and his cronies have benefited from it largely, as it appears.u00a0 Boss Bloomberg wanted and was given control of the school system; it's on his watch that the school system failed to provided the purpose-built schools children around here need.u00a0 Part of the Bloomberg machine's claim about a mayor-run school system: Less corruption; what did we get; more and worse.u00a0 Whose fault? The people who voted for the Bloomberg machine.nnThat Bloomberg machine clearly includes a large part of the City Council, who for all their public claims manage to rubber-stamp the Bloomberg budgets.u00a0 The Council has no other real power than that of the purse u2014 which they resolutely fail to use.u00a0 They talk the talk, but never walk u2014 just ride around in Boss Bloomberg's hip pocket (a good place to sing Boss Bloomberg's favorite folksong: "Brown is the color of my true loves nose").nnThere are senior state legislators who allowed the changes in law that let Boss Bloomberg find whole new ways to screw things up, without any real improvement in results.u00a0 We know who you are, and even admire your service to the state u2014 but man, did you screw things up!nnThen there are the parents.u00a0 O my!u00a0 Such whining! "Our Johnny goes to one school and Janey goes to another! Such a hassle!"u00a0 "We never see our children except when we walk them to school and back from school, and to the playgroup, and to the XYZ lessons u2014 and then only when nanny is under the weather."u00a0 "O, it's just so hard to get to Hester & Baxter Streets from (choice of locations 20 minutes away)."u00a0 One has the sense that many of these folks are the kind that take their pets out for morning walkies in sub-freezing weather, then leave them tethered outside while having their morning coffee at Gee Whiz!.u00a0 One also wonders, did these parents do their due-diligence before moving in, or having the trophy-children ("See, I can have a career and be a housewife and be a mommy and…. I am Woman!" u2014 of both sexes…), or did they just accept the blandishments of the rental agent.u00a0 Then again, given the costs of housing in Manhattan, especially in Lower Manhattan, we are talking about people who should be making a cool quarter-million annually, at least; a house with a yard and places in a "country day" school would produce saner, and better educated children, surely.nnMy sympathy is all with the PS130 folks.u00a0 It appears the head and her staff have rolled back the clock a bit, dumping some of the accumulated normal-college (you may substitute "Teachers College") loss-of-wisdom of the last four decades.u00a0 In a school without a proper school-yard, they've built a learning community that may very well work.u00a0 To dump the children of whiners from Tribeca u2014 who don't even want their kids there, and who've made clear they would find de rigeur parental "involvement" (meddling, in short) inconvenient u2014 on what appears to be a well-ordered school in a different neighborhood is just crazy.nnWhat to do?u00a0 Well, the inconvenienced parents in Tribeca might take advantage of the summer break to find somewhere else to live.u00a0 New Jersey is, I'm told, very nice; I have known some quite charming people from New Jersey, though I must confess I was a bit worried when my sister took up with one of 'em (fortunately, she married two other fellows u2014 serially, of course).u00a0 A short term solution, but enough, perhaps, until we can turn Boss Bloomberg & Buddies out, and terminate their schemes.u00a0 No one would miss most of these people u2014 except the folks that batten on them by providing "enrichment" programs at high prices.nnA somewhat more enduring solution would be the creation of several schools instantly.u00a0 These might be housed temporarily in city- and state-owned buildings u2014 the old Merchant's Center, the court extension over on Church Street, the Savings Bank across from the Old County Courthouse, perhaps on the upper floors added of the Marble Palace.u00a0 Send the displaced bureaucrats to temporary offices in the nether ends of the Bronx and Brooklyn (no one will miss them, most likely).u00a0 Give up the EDC offices on William Street (surely the city has acquired a disused warehouse that could house them in Queens…).u00a0 Bureaucratic yowling might actually result in Boss Bloomberg's tame "educators" getting permanent, purpose-built schools going, along the way condemning land which otherwise would be built up into more unneeded residential space.nnHeavens!u00a0 I hadn't realized I was this ticked off.

    • R: and all who have posted similar posts regarding the "trophy" children and quarter million dollar incomes at PS 234. You are obviously a well informed person, especially on city politics, building downtown. So I am therefore very surprised you would not do more research about the demographic of the families at 234. It may surprise you to know they are not all rich white whiners. Our family has 2 earners, and we make under $125K. We volunteer immense amounts of time on school and community events. Our children have friends on free lunch and who don't own a computer. Before you and others mouth off about our school composition, perhaps you might want to do a minute of research so you dont lose attention to your otherwise valid and pertinent points.nn

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