Penn South Parents Don't Want School Change

By Mathew Katz on October 4, 2011 12:28pm 

The new rezoning plan would put Penn South into P.S. 33's zone, and parts of the West Village into P.S. 11's zone. The colored areas are the existing zones, and the yellow lines represent the proposed new ones.
The new rezoning plan would put Penn South into P.S. 33's zone, and parts of the West Village into P.S. 11's zone. The colored areas are the existing zones, and the yellow lines represent the proposed new ones.
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Department of Education

CHELSEA — Parents at a co-op apartment complex in Chelsea are furious at a school rezoning proposal that would send many of their children to P.S. 33.

The proposal, part of the Department of Education's District 2 rezoning plan, would put the entire Penn South complex in P.S. 33's zone. The co-op, which is between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and spans between 23rd and 29th Streets, is currently split between the P.S. 33 and P.S. 11 school zones.

The changes would go into effect for the 2012-2013 school year.

Parents in the co-op largely consider P.S. 11 a far better school than P.S. 33, and many with toddlers said they waited months or longer to get an apartment in the P.S. 11 zone.

"We chose where we live based on the fact that it would be  zoned for P.S. 11," said Bruce Kriegel, who planned on sending his 14-month-old son to the school. "Now we sort of feel like the rug's been pulled out from under us."

Penn South provides middle-income housing for people wanting to live in Chelsea, and getting any apartment in the complex can take months, if not years. Kriegel and his wife recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment from a one-bedroom that was also in the complex.

He said they waited just under a year to make sure they would remain in the P.S. 11 zone.

"It definitely would have been less of a wait by a huge magnitude if we wanted to go to P.S. 33," he said. "But we specifically wanted to go to P.S. 11. It's a really great school."

The Department of Education said in its proposal that the changes are being made to accommodate growing demand from P.S. 11's south. The new borders would extend its zone into parts of the West Village, but cut out the southern portion of Penn South.

Unlike several others in the rezoning proposal, both Chelsea schools are undercrowded. According to the Department of Education, P.S. 11, at 320 W. 21st St., is currently at 85 percent capacity. P.S. 33, at 281 9th Ave., is currently 82 percent full.

Kriegel said that if the proposed changes go through, he would research P.S. 33 to see if he wanted to send his son there.

Other Penn South parents said there's no way they would send their kids to the school.

Marina Levin's oldest son was locked out of P.S. 11's Pre-Kindergarten class five years ago, but was given the opportunity to register at P.S. 33. Instead, Levin sent her son to a private nursery school that year.

She now has two kids at P.S. 11, and one who has yet to start elementary school. According to the DOE, her youngest son will be grandfathered into the school even if zoning around Penn South changes.

"Sending my kids to P.S. 33 is not an option," Levin wrote in an email.

"If I was forced to send my children to P.S. 33, I would not send them and I would look for a [gifted and talented] program elsewhere or I would more than willingly pay for them to go to school elsewhere.'

The Chelsea and West Village-specific changes will be discussed at an upcoming meeting on Thurs. Oct. 11, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 11. Kriegel said he planned on attending and fighting the changes.

"I just can't understand why they're doing this," he said.

"Why would it all be done at the expense of the local families?"

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