By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — The Upper West Side's most popular gifted and talented program is being phased out starting this September — a blow for parents who hoped their children would enroll in the program this fall.
In a surprise announcement, Department of Education officials said Friday that the well-regarded gifted and talented program at P.S. 9 on West 84th Street and Columbus Avenue won't be accepting kindergarteners this September.
The news came just nine days after parents submitted applications for gifted and talented programs and told the DOE which school was their first choice.
P.S. 9 was likely at the top of the list for many parents in the Upper West Side's District 3, said Robin Aronow, founder of School Search NYC, which advises parents on school admissions.
"It was the most popular gifted and talented program in the district, so (its cancellation) has great significance," Aronow said. "It was a school that families may have chosen even if they were in a good zoned school."
Students already in P.S. 9's gifted and talented will keep their seats, according a letter Principal Diane Brady sent home with students on Thursday.
Parents were given no explanation about why the program was canceled, said P.S. 9 Parent Association President Ellen Reid.
Reid said parents who've called the Department of Education and the Community Education Council with questions have been told to call P.S. 9's administrators for answers.
Parents were told P.S. 9's administration was responsible for the decision to axe the program, Reid said, but that's not the case. "The school's administration doesn't have the authority to decide whether the program is offered," Reid said.
A DOE spokesman said the program is being phased out "because the school needs the space to accommodate families from its zone."
Spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld noted that District 3 won't be losing any gifted and talented seats, because seats will be added to other schools' programs.
"Shifting programs is very common, and every year we carefully plan our gifted and talented sections to make sure we're meeting demand and prioritizing the way we use our limited space," Zarin-Rosenfeld said in an e-mail.
P.S. 166, P.S. 163 and P.S. 165 will serve as District 3's gifted and talented sites going forward, according to Brady's letter to parents.
P.S. 9's program is well-regarded because the school does a good job of integrating general education and gifted and talented students, Aronow said.
"Kids don't know they're in a different programs from each other," Reid said, adding that gifted and talented students are taught in the same classrooms as their general education peers. "They're not separate."
In her letter to parents, Brady said she hoped P.S. 9 families would attend a Monday night town hall meeting with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
The town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday May 23 at 6 p.m. at P.S. 165, 234 W. 109th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.