Vote on Split Zones for Popular West Side Schools Set for January

By Mathew Katz on December 20, 2012 8:06am 

CHELSEA — After already approving the bulk of proposed changes to school zones in Chelsea and the West Village, parents are still fighting one outstanding provision in the plan — splitting up the long-unified zone encompassing the popular P.S. 3 and P.S. 41.

With most of Chelsea's zones shifted to P.S. 11 and the new Foundling School under the plan, many parents in the southern tip of Chelsea and the Village are hoping they'll maintain the ability to choose between sending their kids to P.S. 3 and P.S. 41, an option they've had for years.

The split proposed by the Department of Education would cut the district in half, with kids in most of the northeastern portion going to P.S. 41 and those in the southwestern part going to P.S. 3.

The plan was so controversial that the District 2 Community Education Council delayed its decision on it for a month. The group will take community input at a hearing on Jan. 9 and make a final decision on Jan. 23.

CEC member Michael Markowitz said the council requested the delay because of how complicated the overall zoning plan was without even considering the split — and because of how passionate parents are about keeping their school of choice.

"It really does affect every, every lousy block in the entire picture," he said.

"I think that’s one of the reasons that everyone feels affected, not just the people on the margins."

Depending on what input the council gets, it may request that the line splitting the two schools' zone change from the initial DOE proposal, if it approves the split at all.

The issue of school choice has been a testy one since the CEC first proposed new zones for the area last year. That initial proposal eventually foundered, but the split between P.S. 3 and P.S. 41's zones came back when a new proposal was introduced in October.

At a meeting when the plan was first presented, DOE officials said the split was essential to keep enrollment at both high-demand schools under control.

“Previously there had been choice, and now there’s a proposal for there to not to be choice,” said Eric Stern, a member of Community Board 5, at that meeting.

“We’ve had choice for such a long time. Personally, I really would like to see a strong case for why these lines exist.”

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