Pre-K yes, but Downtown not OK with K space

Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office.  Mayor Bill de Blasio last year at a pre-K event at Spruce Street School with Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, who was the Assembly’s speaker then.

Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio last year at a pre-K event at Spruce Street School with Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, who was the Assembly’s speaker then.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  While the recently announced new pre-K seats Downtown are welcome, their arrival is bringing up other school-related issues that Lower Manhattan faces.

This September, the Tweed Courthouse will become a pre-K center with 54 seats. Tweed has been used as an “incubation” space for new schools, the latest being Peck Slip School, which will move into its new home in the Seaport this fall. Spruce Street School and P.S. 276 both used the space while there schools were being built.

The switch has some Downtown advocates concerned about where new schools will incubate. In November 2013, a 456-seat elementary school was announced as part of the capital budget.

“So it begs the question about what happens when the Department of Ed. finally gets around to siting this new school that’s in the capital budget,” Paul Hovitz, co-chairperson of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee, said in a phone interview. “Where will that school be incubated?”

The elementary school has yet to be “sited,” meaning it does not have a location. For months, the Dept. of Education has not responded to Downtown Express inquiries about this.

Hovitz said that the School Construction Authority continues to say that they have not been able to locate a proper site for the school.

“We are at a loss as to why it’s been so impossible to find an appropriate space, particularly in the Financial District, which is where we would expect, where C.B. 1’s population census shows the greatest growth and where we need a new school,” said Hovitz.

At the December meeting of now Assemblymember Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding School Task Force, possible school sites were presented by Build Schools Now — a group of Downtown parents who are working to create more schools in Lower Manhattan — and Pratt’s Graduate Architecture and Urban Design Program, Wendy Chapman said in an email this week.

Chapman, a P.S. 150 P.T.A. member and one of the leaders of Build Schools Now, said after the meeting a few months ago, the organization was hopeful it could work with School Construction, but that has not happened.

Hovitz brought up the new school up at C.B. 1’s monthly meeting on March 24, asking Councilmember Margaret Chin about it.

“We will continue to press because the seats [are] allocated for us,” said Chin. “The capital budget is there. We’re not going to let it disappear.”

Chin said that she had recently met with Build Schools Now and has a list of potential sites.

How the influx of pre-K seats will affect kindergarten seats in also a concern with Hovitz saying that there will be a crunch for those seats. P.S. 276, he said, already has a waitlist of 60 kids for kindergarten for the 2015-2016 year. Downtown has been plagued before with kindergarten waitlists and school overcrowding. A concerted push by Silver, (now under indictment) other elected officials and C.B. 1 made new schools happen.

“We’re grateful that our Assemblyman — past speaker — still has the overcrowding task force in action,” said Hovitz. “Shelly’s struggles are Downtown’s struggle because of the fact that we no longer have the most influential Democrat in the state as our representative.”

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