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City Defends Sending TriBeCa Kindergartners to Chinatown

By Julie Shapiro on June 15, 2011 3:42pm 

Children lined up outside P.S. 234 on the way to class recently. P.S. 234 could not fit all the kindergarteners who applied this year so 22 families will have to go to P.S. 130 in Chinatown instead.
Children lined up outside P.S. 234 on the way to class recently. P.S. 234 could not fit all the kindergarteners who applied this year so 22 families will have to go to P.S. 130 in Chinatown instead.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

TRIBECA — The city is sticking with its plan to send TriBeCa kids to kindergarten in Chinatown, despite an outcry from elected officials and hundreds of parents.

The city sent a letter this week to many of the 22 families that are waitlisted at TriBeCa's popular P.S. 234, saying the city still plans to put the extra children at P.S. 130 in Chinatown.

"P.S. 130 is among the top 10 percent of elementary schools citywide, and we are confident P.S. 234 students would receive an excellent education at this school," wrote Elizabeth Rose, a director of portfolio planning at the Department of Education.

The waitlisted families say they have nothing against P.S. 130 — which is a more strict school than P.S. 234 and requires students to wear uniforms — but they object to their children being sent out of their immediate community.

The parents also said they were worried about the precedent the Department of Education set by putting the TriBeCa families ahead of some families that were already on P.S. 130's waitlist.

"[The DOE's letter] doesn't address any of these issues or bring up any viable solutions," said Marc Siden, a TriBeCa resident whose daughter is on the P.S. 234 waitlist.

The solution Siden and other parents are proposing is to temporarily put the TriBeCa children either in the Spruce Street School in the Financial District or in P.S. 276 in Battery Park City. The children would then move to the new Peck Slip school once it opens in 2012 in temporary space in Tweed Courthouse.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has voiced support for these alternatives, and Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee passed a resolution in favor of them Tuesday night.

But Rose said in her letter that the parents' proposal would not work because there isn't enough room in Tweed for the extra children.

Rose added that parents who are upset about their placement may file a formal exception request, but the Department of Education only grants them based on hardship or medical need.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, center, said earlier this month that he would look into the concerns of waitlised P.S. 234 parents, who have won the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, left.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, center, said earlier this month that he would look into the concerns of waitlised P.S. 234 parents, who have won the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, left.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

Siden said he and other parents are deciding how to respond to the DOE's letter, and in the meantime they are continuing to build an online petition, which has 430 signatures so far.

The deadline for parents to accept the alternate offer at P.S. 130 was last Friday, and most of the parents did so, "because we had no choice," Siden said.

But they could also stay on the P.S. 234 waitlist after accepting a spot at P.S. 130, and spaces have been gradually opening up at 234. Seven children have gotten in off the waitlist in the past couple of weeks.

The waitlisted families who do not win a spot at P.S. 234 will have top priority for transferring into the school as first graders if space becomes available next fall, Rose said.

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