Volume 22, Number 18 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 11 - 17, 2009

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got a thumbs up from two of the new kindergarteners outside their temporary school space at Tweed, just to the right. The residential tower in the background is part of the Spruce Street School under construction.

They’re open! Spruce & 276 begin with 1st day fears and smiles

By Julie Shapiro

As Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver watched the first kindergarteners arrive at the two new schools in Tweed Courthouse Wednesday morning, he thought up an analogy that made him smile.

“It’s almost like we’re giving birth to this school,” Silver said. “And it almost took as long.”

Silver started pushing for kindergarten classes in Tweed Courthouse late last year when it became clear that the planned 2010 opening of Lower Manhattan’s two new schools would not come soon enough to relieve overcrowding at P.S. 89 and P.S. 234. In response to pressure from Silver, parents and others, the city decided to start the two new schools, P.S./I.S. 276 and the Spruce Street School, with just kindergarten classes this fall in Tweed Courthouse.

After months of planning for the new kindergarten seats and some confusion over the zoning, Tweed opened its doors Sept. 9 to a flood of parents and children. Sporting Hello Kitty backpacks and superhero lunchboxes, new clothes and freshly painted nails, the kindergarteners ranged from euphoric to terrified as they lined up with their classmates in City Hall Park and said goodbye to their parents.

Matt McGowan was one of many parents in the crowd sending their first-born child off to kindergarten.

“We’re very excited,” said McGowan, whose daughter Kiara is attending the Spruce Street School. “This is a new adventure.”

McGowan, who lives in Tribeca, said he had originally hoped Kiara would go to P.S. 234, which is closer to their home, but now “We’re fine,” he said. “We’re happy.”

One child who was having no trouble with the transition was 4-year-old Carys Williams, who played in the leaves near the school entrance with fellow classmates she had just met. Her mother Barbara Williams called her blonde daughter “a social butterfly.”

But Williams did say it was unsettling to have Carys in a school so far from Battery Park City, and she looked forward to the opening of 276’s new building in the neighborhood next year.

The first student to arrive at Tweed Wednesday morning around 7:45 a.m. was not a kindergartner at all. Eight-year-old Ijalayah Norfort was entering third grade at Ross Global Academy, the charter school that occupied Tweed from 2006 until earlier this year. Ijalayah’s harried mother, Latesha Norfort, said no one from Ross told her the school had moved up to E. 12th St., and she rushed off to get her daughter there on time.

By 8:30 a.m., the patio outside of Tweed was crowded with strollers and bags of school supplies as kindergarteners wove through a forest of adults’ legs to find their classes. Parents circled with iPhones and Camcorders to capture their children’s first steps into the school, and on the whole the drop-off went smoothly, with only a few tears. Pam Hughes, who had her son Henri by the hand, called it an atmosphere of “controlled chaos, but it’s wonderful.”

She and other parents flagged down their friends from the neighborhood, reminding their children that they had met once at a playgroup or in preschool.

“You can feel the sense of community already,” Hughes said.

Sonia and Sven Jacobson, who moved to Tribeca earlier this year, said they were excited to send their son Jonah off to the Spruce Street School, but the separation was also “nerve-racking” for both parent and child. Still, it appeared excitement was winning.

“Something about a new school really brings out a sense of optimism,” Sonia Jacobson said.



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