Volume 16 • Issue 49 | April 30 - May 6, 2004

Board’s committee opposes P.S. 234 split

By Elizabeth O’Brien

While P.S. 234 may have to add an extra kindergarten class next fall, the school’s principal told Community Board 1 there were better ways to ease overcrowding than a tentative city proposal to split her school in two.

At a private meeting several weeks ago, deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff raised the idea of moving grades pre-K through 2 into a high-rise slated for construction next to P.S. 234 on Chambers St., according to Madelyn Wils, chairperson of the board. As it is understood, the proposal would create two separate schools with different principals.

Bridges said no city officials had approached her about the plan.

“I kind of resent that someone would propose changing it without consulting us,” Bridges said at a Tuesday meeting of the C.B. 1 youth and education committee.

Bridges said she didn’t have the luxury of time to wait for a new building to be constructed: The school, already over capacity, will need more space this fall. One hundred fifteen children have already pre-registered for kindergarten, while the school can accommodate 112, Bridges said. An additional 10 to 15 children usually come at the start of each school year after moving to the neighborhood, she added.

Even if space were available immediately, a split 234 would disrupt the educational consistency the teachers work hard to achieve, Bridges said. Also from an instructional standpoint, Bridges said it would not make sense to begin a school with the third grade, a year of high-stakes standardized tests.

Education officials downplayed the proposal.

“It’s not a plan at this point,” Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, told Downtown Express two weeks ago. She did not return a call for comment on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the development of the Chambers St. lot, also did not return a call for comment.

The youth and education committee decided to draft a resolution stating its opposition to a divided 234.

“I think the whole feeder school concept is suspect,” said Jeff Galloway, a member of the youth and education committee. Galloway said he would like to see whether any educational studies supported the idea of dividing elementary schools.

In its resolution, the committee plans to ask the Education Department to investigate the possibility of renting space for a pre-kindergarten center that would house all pre-kindergarten classes from local elementary schools P.S. 234, P.S. 89 and P.S. 150.

Bridges said a pre-K center represented the least objectionable of all temporary fixes for the school’s overcrowding problem. Pre-kindergarteners are already set apart from the main student body because they attend school for half days, she said.

A leased pre-K center could help local schools cope until a new pre-K through 8th grade school is constructed in Lower Manhattan, community members said. Under the $13.1 billion city school budget released last fall, Downtown will receive a new school, which is expected to be sited on the east side. Construction is slated to begin in 2006.

Board 1 officials have stressed the need to find a site for the new school within the next few months. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is expected to contribute funding towards it, and the corporation will allocate its remaining $1 billion soon.

Next fall, P.S. 234 will probably have to give up space used for art or computer instruction to accommodate the influx of students. The school needs relief now, Bridges said: “I don’t have five or six years.”



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