Volume 22, Number 26 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 6 - 12, 2009
Education council favors temporary kindergarten zones
By Albert Amateau and Julie Shapiro
The group charged with rezoning Lower Manhattan’s schools emphasized parents’ need for certainty at a meeting last week.
The District 2 Community Education Council, a group of parents elected by P.T.A.’s, is working with the city to decide which children will attend which Downtown schools next fall.
“Parents in Tribeca want to know where their children will go, they don’t want a lottery and they don’t want experimental zoning,” said Lisa Urban, a C.E.C. zoning committee member.
But both the C.E.C. and the Dept. of Education say they cannot put a final zoning plan in place until next spring, which will be too late for fall 2010 kindergarten admissions. So zoning committee members at an Oct. 28 meeting said they would consider a temporary zoning plan for next fall, which they hope the D.O.E. will submit before Thanksgiving.
At the same time, committee members said they would continue to work on a plan with an April 2010 target date for long-term Downtown zoning beginning in the 2011 school year.
Elizabeth Rose, a District 2 parent who now works for D.O.E., said the city intends to submit a temporary rezoning based on where families currently live, but it will not take into account new buildings that could come on line in the next few years.
Rose said she expected to hold a meeting soon with parents from the four Downtown schools, but no date has been set.
Shino Tanikawa, co-chairperson of the C.E.C.’s zoning committee, said drawing the dividing lines is a serious matter and the C.E.C. needs to take its time.
“We want it to have transparency and clarity for parents and we want it to be fair,” she said.
The city’s temporary plan will likely zone Tribeca for P.S. 234; northern Battery Park City for P.S. 89; southern B.P.C. and southern Financial District for P.S. 276; and the Seaport and northern Financial District for Spruce Street School. But the D.O.E. has warned that all of Tribeca will likely not fit into P.S. 234, so it is unclear how that zone will be defined.
Tanikawa said that if the temporary rezoning plan were indeed issued by Thanksgiving, there would be enough time to hold hearings in December and have it ready for Downtown parents to know in April where their children would be going in September.
Michael Markowitz, a zoning committee member, urged the committee not to approve even a temporary zoning plan until it had been presented and discussed in a public hearing.
Rose said that a child assigned to a school by temporary zoning would have the option to remain in it to the fifth grade even if the subsequent long-term zoning puts the child elsewhere. It would also be possible for a child in a school under temporary zoning to transfer later to the appropriate permanent zoned school.
Last year, some parents were unhappy when they were assigned via lottery to one of the new schools, 276 and Spruce Street, which opened this fall in Tweed Courthouse. While some of those families were able to transfer into P.S. 234 or P.S. 89 earlier this year, the waitlists for those schools closed on Oct. 31, said Will Havemann, spokesperson for the D.O.E. That means no more kindergarteners will transfer during this school year.
Havemann added that kindergarteners who were waitlisted for this fall will be allowed to return to their preferred school next fall if first-grade seats are available there.