City moves to push P.S. 150 out of Tribeca

P.S. 150 students working on a museum project in January. File photo by Wendy Chapman

P.S. 150 students working on a museum project in January. File photo by Wendy Chapman

By JOSH ROGERS  | [UPDATED at 3:09 p.m. APRIL 24, 2013] P.S. 150 parents just got word that the small Tribeca school may be moved to Chelsea in 2014 to help deal with the persistent overcrowding crunch below Canal St.

P.S. 150 is an unzoned elementary school open to all District 2 students, but it gives priority to Lower Manhattan children, so many if not  most are living south of Canal.

The students would move to the new school being built at 17th St. and 6th Ave. on the site of the former Foundling Hospital.

“By moving the school to a big building you’re changing the foundation of what the school is all about,” said Jennifer Weisbord, a Tribeca mother. “We could’ve gone to P.S. 234, we could’ve gone to P.S. 11.”

P.S. 234, the Tribeca school always in high demand, this year has a wait list of 50.  Weisbord said she considered  P.S, 11 in Chelsea because her daughter was accepted to the gifted and talented program,  She said the “small-knit community school” feeling close to her home is what makes the school so attractive.

She and other parents got word of the move in an email (pasted at the bottom of this article), Wednesday, from Principal  Jenny Bonnet who wrote the move was “due to overcrowding issues in our downtown schools, questionable economic viability of a small school, concerns about professional development and lack of opportunity for collaboration for our teachers and expanded opportunities for our students….

“The Department of Education realizes that this will be an unexpected inconvenience and shock for many of you.”

The school,  which has seven classrooms from pre-K – 5, could possibly serve as a pre-K center, which would open up space in P.S. 89, 276, Spruce Street School and Peck Slip School. It could also “incubate” a new school if space were found elsewhere Downtown.  It is near Greenwich and Jay Sts. and is part of the Independence Plaza North housing complex.

Lenny Crooks, a parent member of the School Leadership Team, said District 2 Superintendent Mariano Guzman gave a very smooth presentation about the great changes in store, before making the shocking announcement that the school “would be moving lock, stock and barrel to the Flatiron District… Moving a school out of Tribeca is the opposite of solving the school overcrowding problem in Tribeca.”

Crooks, whose son is in the first grade, said after being pressed, school officials said the 150 space would likely be used for pre-K programs.

He and other parents asked if families could get special consideration if they applied to transfer to a nearby school out of their zone such as P.S. 89. His sense was such applications “would not be considered positively.”

Crooks said he loves the school’s small and active parent community. If his son were kicked out of Lower Manhattan, he would miss the after school walksover to Pier 25 and the Battery Park City ballfields.

Parent emails have been flying since they got word. They plan to paint protest signs for the P.S. 150 student performance at Saturday’s Tribeca Film Festival family fair.

Weisbord said parents who just accepted offers to P.S. 150’s kindergarten class are particularly upset to hear they will be moved after a year. According to emails she received about parents who tried Thursday to enroll in other schools, officials at Spruce did not know about the proposed change. P.S. 234 staff had heard and took down names,

Erin Hughes, a Dept of Education spokesperson, emailed a new statement Thursday ternoon:

“We recognize the significance of the changes that would come as a result of this proposal, but we see the re-siting of P.S. 150 as a way to build on the school’s strengths in a fantastic new space. We’re committed to developing a plan to ensure that P.S. 150’s current space continues to be used for the Lower Manhattan community.”

Earlier in the day, Hughes sent us this statement:
“This proposal is about PS 150 and developing a long-term plan for the school to ensure that it continues to thrive. While we don’t yet have a proposal for the use of the PS 150’s current space in 2014, we are committed to ensuring that this proposal does not reduce kindergarten capacity downtown.

This proposal has to go through the A-190 process: An Educational Impact Statement will be posted next week, a public hearing will be held in early June, and the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on June 19.”

BELOW IS THE LETTER EMAILED TO P.S. 15 PARENTS APRIL 24, 2013:

Dear P.S. 150 Families,

Today, an SLT meeting was called by District 2’s Superintendent, Mariano Guzman, to discuss the future of P.S. 150.  Due to overcrowding issues in our downtown schools,questionable economic viability of a small school, concerns about professional development and lack of opportunity for collaboration for our teachers and expanded opportunities for our students, there has been a proposal to move P.S. 150 to a new state of the art school building that is being constructed in the NY Foundling Hospital on 17th Street and 6th Avenue, for the 2014 – 2015 school year.

The Department of Education realizes that this will be an unexpected inconvenience and shock for many of you.  They will do everything they can to make this transition as smooth as possible (yellow school buses, for example).  I hope you will see this as an extraordinary opportunity for your children.  In 2014, we will open as a PK – 5th grade school, but the only grades that will be fully populated will be Pre K and K.  So, your children will not lose that sense of intimacy, but will reap the benefits of all this new building has to offer.

I know you will have questions and concerns, as I still do as well. We will have a parent meeting next week, date TBD.  I will let you know as soon as it is scheduled. I am hoping that as a community we can band together, support one another and take P.S. 150 to a new, exciting level and make next year a banner one.

Tomorrow I will be sending you a powerpoint that shows renderings of the new school.  I think you will agree that they are remarkable.

Yours,

Jenny

 

Jenny Bonnet

Principal

P.S. 150, Tribeca Learning Center

334 Greenwich Street

 

Spread the word:

18 Responses to City moves to push P.S. 150 out of Tribeca

  1. Sign the petition to urge the DOE to add more kindergarten classrooms and new schools to Lower Manhattan. http://www.change.org/petitions/nyc-lower-manhatt

  2. Don't sleep on the DOE — the day before Kindergarten registration ends, and days after big a CB1 school meeting open to the public, they drop their bomb. Perfect timing, far as the DOE is concerned. No way out, no way to complain.

    So when the uniquely-modeled 150 disappears forever into the larger Chelsea school's model, and when most Tribeca parents of 1-4th grade 150 students simply enroll their kids in their zoned school, as the law allows, do we then have waiting lists for all elementary grades? Probably. Once again, the DOE solves their problem – financial mismanagement — without solving lower Manhattan's problem, which is educating kids.

  3. Debrah Pearson Feinn

    PS 150 started as "The Early Childhood Center". It was a model of collaboration at all levels – with the children benefitting. Since ECC was a magnet school, the student body was very diverse. The parents were also the founders of "Taste of Tribeca" which has been a terrific engine of support and change for the arts in education. The ECC parent body shared the "Taste" event with the parent body of PS 234, and so it has continued as a model of public/private neighborhood collaboration. Where will the funding for Arts programs at PS 150 come from if the school is moved to Chelsea? As one of the founders of this event, and a past ECC parent, I am deeply saddened.

  4. The Foundling Hospital sited school was supposed to provide MORE seats for the community not shuffle kids around.

  5. I really don't even know where to begin with this type of alarmist "reporting." Facts have yet to be uncovered and our questions indeed still need to be answered. As parents and more importantly rational adults, we owe it to ourselves and our children to give this time, learn more about the DOE's plans (for 2014-2015, mind you) and refrain from hasty, petulant cries of wrong doing or harm to our community.

    The primary source of detail here appears to be from Mr. Crooks, who (as far as I can tell from my own fact-checking with several other parents and administrative reps who were also present in the meeting) clearly was not listening intently enough and appears to both exaggerate and embellish what he claims to have heard from the proposal that was presented by Guzman. Let's all do ourselves a favour and keep the extant gossip, the "not-in-my-backyard" herd mentality, all these silly emails back-and-forth, and lastly, the on-line & print media blitz campaigning to a minimum until we know more. Let's try not try to rabble-rouse and create more angst & anxiety for ourselves or children; stick to the facts as we learn more and, above all, be civil about all of this.

    OK, so what do we know? The existing school cannot support the changing population demographics of our neighborhood. Is this breaking news? Not entirely, unless you live in a bubble. The only constant in life is change itself and perhaps some are needed to ensure our children receive the education they deserve. We should be happy that the DOE isn't closing the school altogether and displacing our children all over the city. Sadly, they have a history of doing that all over the boroughs. So let's move beyond the superficial 'paper cuts' and not lose sight of the fact that under this proposal, the school is MOVING, not CLOSING (and not to Queens or Staten Island, but to Chelsea – from the current site, only 9 mins by taxi, 15-20 mins by bus or subway, or worst, 30-40 mins by walking). In this case, it seems the entire school is to be moved to a brand new facility, with greater resources for students. Based on what we ultimately hear, however, let's not also forget we have an arsenal of choices at our disposal – potentially moving with the school (if the proposal does indeed move forward), enrolling in another school in our zone or elsewhere in the city (public or private) or even moving out of the neighbourhood or city altogether if we can't find the necessary resources or environment we deem suitable for our kids. It's not like any of these are out of our reach (for financial reasons or otherwise, despite the temporary headaches or inconveniences it may create), so let's not kid ourselves and act like we've already been expelled from the neighbourhood when nothing has even happened.

    Let's also try to keep the debate classy and keep it directed squarely at the DOE. Protesting at our student performance at the end of the Film Festival this weekend will not only embarrass and affect our children, but the actions of some is quite frankly gauche and make all of us look like a bunch of self-serving, horses a$@es with rich people problems in the process. We're better than that. I count our family lucky to be part of this unique, tight knit community which we've all helped create over the years and, together, we shouldn't lose sight of that by acting hastily or prematurely ringing the alarm bells and, by doing so, undermining precisely what we should be focused on: getting the best education for our children, wherever that may be. Shame on us if we fail to achieve anything less. In the meantime, let's keep our wits about us and remain calm, collected adults, and set a good example for our children (at the very least for our own sanity as the process unfolds).

  6. Jenny's letter states that this is a PROPOSAL. The letter states that the PROPOSAL stems from DOE concerns over: (1) overcrowding issues in our downtown schools, (2) questionable economic viability of a small school, (3) concerns about professional development and lack of opportunity for collaboration for our teachers and (4) expanded opportunities for our students. Let's break this down and then perhaps we can all have a proper debate about the merits of this PROPOSAL:

  7. (1) "Overcrowding issues in our downtown schools". MY TWO CENTS: It is my belief that by moving PS150 out of the neighborhood, they will simply be creating more of an issue for the remaining neighborhood schools as parents will enroll their children in the other TriBeCA, FiDi and BPC schools.

  8. (2) "Questionable economic viability of a small school". MY TWO CENTS: Without a budget it is difficult to address this, however, given that the school has flourished for close to 40 years it is difficult to accept this as fact. If this is truly a concern, the DOE should provide more details. The school benefits from a very active PTA and has done a terrific job of coming up with fundraisers (such as the Taste of Tribeca) to help supplement public funds. Is this really about money?

  9. (3) “Concerns about professional development and lack of opportunity for collaboration for our teachers.” MY TWO CENTS:I love our teachers at PS 150 and want nothing more than for all of our teachers and administrators to have outlets where they can develop and to collaborate with others. If the administration and the teachers feel that this is a real issue, I am certain the PTA would work with them to try to address their concerns. I would like to see this issue addressed with the community, the PTA, and our neighboring schools rather than with DOE. This should not be a reason to move PS 150. This is news to me. Some teachers thrive in a small school and others need a larger network to operate (and/or hide). I love our teachers and think this “issue” should be addressed away from the discussion of moving the school.

  10. (4) “Expanded opportunities for our students” MY TWO CENTS:I take offense to this one. Sure our school lacks certain things but it more than makes up for any shortcomings. This statement is offensive – I would take the love and sense of community that PS 150 possesses over a gymnasium any day.

    I love PS 150, I love our kids, I love our teachers. I think Jenny is great and I think Jenny choose to come to PS 150 and I would like to think (while she can’t say this) she wants PS 150 to stay where it is. The DOE’s proposal doesn’t make sense to me. I hope they see our way or I hope they can convince us that their view is right. Let’s not let this PROPOSAL tear apart our community. Let’s figure out how to keep PS 150 where it is.

  11. Concerned citizen

    I am more concerned with the principal’s ability to run a larger school considering the struggles she is already having with such a small school. The current leadership is sorely lacking. What will happen when the school staff and community is larger?

  12. Jenny did not create the problems at 150, she inherited them from the previous principal.

  13. The semantic difference between the DOE 'moving' and 'closing' a school is small enough to be non-existent. When the DOE closes a school and calls it a 'closing,' the enrolled kids are told what new school they will be attending. Usually, they all go to the same new school.
    Thus, they've moved. To a new school. From one that was closed.
    See?

  14. What you may perceive as a 'semantic difference' may indeed be small enough to you, but it remains a bona fide difference nonetheless. If you can't understand that, perhaps you should ask the parents of children whose schools across our city have been legitimately 'closed' by the DOE and never re-opened elsewhere. As far as I understand the plan (and I expect to learn more this week), PS 150 will 'move' and still be PS 150, but in the 'new' location. If it were 'closed,' students would be disbanded to PS 234 or other locations in the area and thus to a 'new' school. Verstehen?

    I find the vitriol being stirred up by other parents to be quite enlightening. We chose to have our children in public school, and perhaps specifically because of the unique atmosphere at PS 150. However, if our needs are no longer being served by the public school system, we have alternatives. They may be inconvenient or perhaps more expensive (for private), but we have options. Still, however, there seems to be this looming and rather misplaced sense of entitlement amongst the community and a complete lack of ability to intelligently reflect on the situation at hand. Instead, this sense of entitlement appears to be manifesting itself in 'shoot-from-the-hip' reactivity, unnecessary confusion for our children (at least at this stage) and a peevish and generally unpleasant environment that runs contrary to the values publicly espoused its members. I hope we are better than this. Le temps nous le dira…

  15. DOE is all about semantics. Keep on drinking their Kool-Aid, and they'll keep serving it to you. In the closing of 150, students *are* being disbanded to 234 and other locations in the area – the 'area' being Chelsea or the WV, as the DOE has long-attempted to do. This is just a different name for an old play. (are you new to this? Do you not recall the plans in '08 to zone northern Tribeca outright for schools in the WV, or talk last year of buses to schools north of Canal to Chinatown or the LES?)
    PS: Some of us haven't 'chosen' to have our children in public school. We chose to be born middle class or less, and then chose to work for non-profits, and then chose to secure government-supported rent — while shouldering the tax burden — and then chose to send our kids to school in lower Manhattan. Nearest charter is Union Sq. That takes a Nanny.
    PS — If public school is an entitlement (as you mis-use the word), then is no embarrassment in grousing loudly.

  16. I got a kick out of the performance on Saturday and since when shouldn't people speak out for something they believe in. They got some press and some photo ops and were able to articulate their point and possibly inform some other neighbors what is going on. There was no civil disobedience, sit ins or disruption of any of the events. They had a platform and they used it.

  17. DOE states: "we see the re-siting of P.S. 150 as a way to build on the school’s strengths in a fantastic new space"

    MY TWO CENTS: The DOE doesn't understand that the school's strengthens are the community that it is in. The school thrives given its location and support from the neighborhood community. I trust through this public open debate, the DOE will realize that you can't take the Tribeca Learning Center (PS150) out of Tribeca. The DOE could use PS150 as a model of how a small school can thrive — use PS 150 as a case study, don't move it destroying what has been built.

  18. Public school is hardly an entitlement nor have I said anywhere that it is; we all pay into the same system and I would argue it is the right of every citizen to have access to it, wherever they may live. However, if you re-read as I've written and refrain from taking my words out of context, you'll see that my use of 'entitlement' is directed squarely towards the parents who are making said complaints, not the provision of a public education. We are lucky and privileged (dare I say, entitled?) to have the resources, financial and otherwise, to have a voice that allows us to connect with our Borough President, State and Congressional leaders on this issue and be heard. This has nothing to do with socio-economic issues; we all know there are families who are extremely well-to-do, with multiple homes, others who receive public assistance/government-subsidised rental assistance (as mentioned above) and everything in between. But let's be brutally honest with ourselves: anyone who's had a child go through P.S. 150 in the last 10-15 years (or anyone with half a brain and an awareness of what's happening outside our little bubble, I would also argue) knows the 'community' is not what it used to be. We conveniently choose to live within this bubble (and continue to "drink the Kool-Aid," to borrow a metaphor), whether it's based in reality or not. Perhaps some of the veterans (as mentioned in an earlier comment), while great as they were at the time, realized they couldn't hack it in an ever-changing environment where our teachers come under more onerous requirements and greater scrutiny by NYS, NYC and the DOE, as data-driven results and expanding curricula are brought to the fore. Could it be that Maggie, in her own frustration (with parents and/or staff), left the 'community' after 6 years and leapt at another opportunity across town to create a new school from scratch? It's certainly plausible and I would agree with the comment above that the problems with our school have long been taking root over many years, so it's not so much a question of Jenny or Maggie's leadership. These issues seem to have only become more apparent now that such a game-changing proposal is on the table and, sadly, they will continue to play out over time. Anyone who thinks otherwise is stuck in an alternate universe (longing for "what was" or "used to be" our neighborhood) and plainly in denial (refusing to acknowledge "what is").

    Moreover, what's truly embarrassing is the use of our own children in the act of 'grousing'. As amusing as last weekend's performance may have been for the crowd, it just doesn't sit well (with me, at least) that children are being used as a game piece to demonstrate a point. As a child of the early sixties, I am all in favor of standing up for what one believes (especially when the motives are not self-serving), but there's an inflection point after which it just gets a bit overdone and the whole process unwieldy. It's clear my views on parenting and education fail to comport with the rank and file here, so I will happily agree to disagree. However, seeing as how this issue is so critically important and divisive, it still would have been nice to see more than a few attendees from our community at yesterday's meeting with the Superintendent.

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