By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott vowed Monday to personally meet with parents upset over the loss of a popular gifted and talented program on the Upper West Side.
Walcott told parents at a town hall meeting that the decision to phase out the gifted and talented program at P.S. 9 had sparked a "major outcry," especially because the Department of Education didn't announce the program's closure until after parents had submitted applications.
"I own the responsibility for not getting the notice out to the community sooner," Walcott said at the meeting at P.S. 165.
Parents weren't told the well-regarded program was being phased out until last Thursday, when a letter from the principal went home in backpacks. That was more than a week after parents submitted gifted and talented applications to the DOE.
The DOE shifted P.S. 9's gifted and talented seats to other schools in District 3 because of a space crunch this fall, Walcott said.
"We've had an over-abundance of zoned requests at P.S. 9," Walcott said Monday.
"If it was up to us, we would definitely love to have a gifted and talented class at P.S. 9. But at the same time, it was determined that we could not do it."
For the upcoming school year, 104 students zoned for P.S. 9 accepted offers at the school, compared with about 68 last year, a DOE spokesman said.
Though the school's gifted and talented program won't accept any kindergarteners this fall, existing gifted and talented classes in other grades will remain intact.
District 3's gifted and talented seats will shift to P.S. 165, P.S. 166 and P.S. 163.
Parents at the town hall submitted roughly 150 questions for the new chancellor, officials said. There wasn't enough time to answer all of them.
Walcott discussed budget cuts and teacher layoffs, and another hot-button issue in the area — charter schools.
District 3 Community Education Council member Olaiya Deen told Walcott that Upper Manhattan public school parents felt overwhelmed by charter schools that move into district school buildings.
"We have to make decisions sometimes that will be unpopular with the parents who are raising the issue," Walcott said.
"[But] I will not be disrespectful in listening to what you have to say."