UPPER EAST SIDE — Parents and community education advocates are demanding that the Department of Education put a middle school in P.S. 158's vacant space.
At a Community Board 8 committee meeting Monday night, residents reiterated their argument — which they've been making since at least October 2011 — that the area is in dire need of a middle school. The space at P.S. 158 opened up when P.S. 267 moved out in September.
"If we could just get [the Department of Education] to make the decision that it's going to be a middle school — and not a charter middle school — I think it'd be a huge step forward," said Judy Schneider, co-chairwoman CB8's Youth and Education Committee.
"We need a neighborhood school."
There are 24 middle schools within District 2, an area that spans TriBeCa, Midtown and the Upper East Side, where five are located, according to InsideSchools.org.
But parents argue that five isn't enough, and they say the issue has been intensified by the recent addition of three new elementary schools in the neighborhood.
Some parents voiced worries about sending their kids to school Downtown.
Others said the middle schools where seats are available were too big or too specialized. In the past, parents have argued for — and against — using the empty space at P.S. 158 for a gifted-and-talented middle school.
"There's a lot of very talented students on the Upper East Side," said P.S. 267 parent Matthew Chook. "But there's also a need for average students."
Schneider and others said they worry that the city is still eyeing the space at P.S. 158, at York Avenue and East 77th Street, for use as an elementary school — even though there are available K-5 seats in the area.
"In the past this has been their safety valve," Schneider said of the DOE. "They can't just keep this empty as a safety valve in case they need more kindergartens. They need to give us a middle school."
The committee will meet in February to discuss the issue in greater detail, and middle school supporters are already aggressively encouraging parents to attend — as well as inviting elected leaders.
Parents hope a packed house will prompt reform.
"You fill the room. They'll see their constituents. And they'll go to bat," said advocate Debra J. Millman. "We need to put pressure on politicians to fight for us."
Officials with the Department of Education said they are still weighing all options.
"We are working with the community to determine the best options for the P.S. 158 space," a DOE spokeswoman said. "No decisions have been made at this point."