New School Options Arrive in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen

By Mathew Katz on February 11, 2013 7:12am 

CHELSEA — The landscape of schools in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen is about to change as two new institutions are expected to open in the next year.

In 2014, the Foundling School will open at West 17th Street and Sixth Avenue, and a slim segment of parents in southern Chelsea will no longer be able to send their children to high-demand West Village schools P.S. 3 and P.S. 41.

And for students entering kindergarten in the fall of 2013, a new Success Academy charter school is scheduled to open on West 49th Street.

That will give parents across the district a choice outside of their zoned schools, but District 2 Community Education Council officials still expect enrollment to go up at nearly all of the district's existing elementary schools later this year.

P.S. 11 on West 21st Street often gets a slew of applications because of its stellar reputation — though last year the school managed to buck the trend of Downtown schools and was able to avoid putting a single zoned student on a waitlist. And other schools in the neighborhood have recently expanded programs and seen increases in city rankings, parents and staff members say.

P.S. 33 on Ninth Avenue, for instance, has seen a remarkable turnaround in recent years under Principal Linore Lindy, consistently improving its standing in citywide rankings.

September of 2013 will also see the return of P.S. 51 to the neighborhood in a brand-new building on West 44th Street. Students at the school spent two years slogging to the Upper East Side while the campus was built.

As the area develops, both P.S. 11 and P.S. 33 will be expected to take on additional students, CEC officials said. That's already underway, and while some parents say class sizes are still relatively small, they're on the way up.

"If you talk about New York City schools and overcrowding, then we're very lucky, and it's luxurious that we have this space," said P.S. 11 parent Kathryn Crosby. 

"It certainly hasn't affected the level of learning, but I wouldn't want to see many more kids enter the school."

When the Foundling School opens in 2014, officials hope it will relieve some of the pressure on the more popular schools in the area. Still, P.S. 11, P.S. 33 and Midtown West's P.S. 212 have all seen higher demand from students living outside of their zones in recent years, and competition to get into the schools for those who live outside of Chelsea proper is likely to be fierce.

"All District 2 schools are good," said Demetri Ganiaris, a member of the District 2 CEC.

"But parents need to take the time to go to the school and learn from the parents there to see what school fits them and their child best," Ganiaris added. "They need to look past the superficial info and see the school for themselves."

Here are some of Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen's noteworthy public elementary schools:

P.S. 11, William T. Harris, 320 W. 21st St.

Parents consistently praise Principal Bob Bender for raising the bar at this Chelsea school, implementing a number of programs that are the first of their kind. A devoted PTA helps as well, especially in pioneering a healthy lunch program and a farmer's market that serves the neighborhood. Most recently, the school added a chicken coup to the playground and now auctions off the schoolyard-fresh eggs to the community.

P.S. 33, Chelsea Prep, 281 Ninth Ave.

Once considered the black sheep of District 2, P.S. 33 is now the only school in the neighborhood that has consistently seen improvements in its citywide rankings over the past few years. Under Principal Linore Lindy, the school added a variety of new classes and extracurricular activities, including courses in Mandarin, robotics and karate, along with a growing gifted and talented program that draws students from all across the district.

P.S. 51, 525 W. 44th St.

After being temporarily relocated to the Upper East Side in 2011, P.S. 51's brand-new building on West 45th Street is scheduled to be completed in September 2013. The new campus will have nearly twice as many seats, meaning more classes and more students. The move to the Upper East Side, spurred by a massive construction project next door, brought the school's parents closer together, creating such a tight-knit and supportive community that parents collaborated on an app to track their kids on the school bus.

P.S. 212, Midtown West School, 328 W. 48th St.

Located just steps from the bustle of Times Square, this small school has a particularly active PTA, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for students in the past, parents say. The school often sees a large amount of kindergarten applications and has a diverse student base from around the district. Students typically spend two years with each teacher, which parents say deepens their relationships with them.

P.S. 111, Adolph S. Ochs, 440 W. 53rd St.

While it has suffered from a poor reputation, P.S. 111 found a knight in shining armor in Principal Irma Medina, who devotes both working and personal hours to her students, parents say. The Spanish-speaking Medina works with ESL students, many of whom come from The Bronx, to help them fit into an increasingly mixed school. She's also formed partnerships with a variety of after-school organizations in the area, which operate in the school's massive playground, including a gymnastics studio that's opening next door.

Success Academy Hell's Kitchen, 439 W. 49th St.

The recently approved charter school will be one of two Success Academies opening up in District 2 in 2013, both of which have already seen a steady stream of applications, according to a spokeswoman. The Hell's Kitchen location will have a longer school day than other schools in the area and a similar core curriculum to its sibling schools around the city. Some parents were concerned about the school's location in a building housing the floundering High School for Graphic Communication Arts. But the charter network said that many of its campuses are co-located with high schools, and it's yet to be a problem.

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