DOE Plans to Move Beloved P.S. 150 to Chelsea, Outraging Local Parents

By Irene Plagianos and Mathew Katz  on April 25, 2013 12:32pm

TRIBECA — The Department of Education plans to move students from a small, beloved elementary school in TriBeCa to a state-of-the-art facility in Chelsea — a proposal that has left loyal parents shocked and enraged.

Under the proposal, the 188 pre-K through 5th grade students housed at P.S. 150 Tribeca Learning Center will move to the new Foundling School at West 17th Street and Sixth Avenue beginning in September 2014, new school is slated to open.

In a letter sent to school parents Wednesday night, the school's principal, Jenny Bonnet, explained that the DOE plan comes as a way to address the "questionable economic viability of a small school, concerns about professional development," and a chance for "expanded opportunities for our students."

But many of school's parents — still reeling from the news while dropping off their children Thursday morning — said they chose to send their children to the high-performing, tightly knit school precisely for its unique opportunities, despite its constraints.

P.S. 150, a school that has just one class per grade, is not zoned, but gives preference to families south of Canal Street.  The beloved elementary school has no gym or auditorium, but, parents said, what they lack in facilities, they make up for with attentive teachers and a strong sense of of community.

"We are just in complete shock," said Corie Sharples, a parent who has a kindergartener and a fourth grader in the school. "All these parents specifically chose to send our kids here, over other schools in the neighborhood. This makes no sense."

Students at P.S. 150 from Grades 1 to 5 would be bussed to Chelsea under the plan, which was discussed at a meeting called by Mariano Guzman, the superintendent of Community Education Council District 2. The school's kindergarten and Pre-K classes would be filled with students zoned for the new Foundling school from Chelsea and the West Village.

"Our community is here. Our kids' lives is here" Sharples said. "Bussing to a larger school is something we absolutely don't want, something we didn't ask for, and something we didn't do."

The change, parents said, is especially confounding in a neighborhood known for excellent yet overcrowded schools. This year, a record 148 kids were waitlisted for Lower Manhattan's other zoned schools, local elementary principals said at a recent meeting.

"Even if we want to stay, where will our kids go?" said one parent, who asked that her name not be used, Thursday morning. "The other schools are overflowing with kids here."

The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Ultimately, the move would eliminate about 20 kindergarten seats in TriBeCa, according to a source with knowledge of the plan. Bonnet would make the move as well, taking over leadership at the new Chelsea school.

According to a source, the DOE plan is being proposed because such a small school did not make financial sense and its size meant it had particular difficulty offering specialty classes.

Bonnet defended the plan as "an extraordinary opportunity" for students in a letter to parents.

"Your children will not lose that sense of intimacy, but will reap the benefits of all this new building has to offer," she said.

But, many parents — who vowed loyalty to Bonnet and understood the benefits of a new, state-of-the-art school — said the fight has just begun.

"We feel insulted, we feel confused," said P.S. 150 parent Jacqueline Mirot. "We still have a lot of questions. This is not what we want for our children."

Parents are slated to have a meeting a with the principal and officials next week.

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