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East Village Could Lose Pre-K Seats Because of Overcrowding

By Julie Shapiro | February 22, 2012 6:49am
The East Village Community School shares a crowded building with two other schools inside P.S. 61 on East 12th Street between Avenues B and C.
The East Village Community School shares a crowded building with two other schools inside P.S. 61 on East 12th Street between Avenues B and C.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

EAST VILLAGE — The city may eliminate half the pre-K classes at two popular East Village elementary schools in an effort to ease overcrowding.

Under the Department of Education's proposal, the East Village Community School and the Children's Workshop School would each admit just one section of pre-K starting in the fall of 2013, rather than their usual two sections apiece.

That would free up additional classrooms in the cramped building at 610 E. 12th St. that the two schools share with P.S. 94, a special education program, DOE officials told parents at a recent community meeting, according to those who attended.

But parents at the schools overwhelmingly oppose the proposal, saying the neighborhood needs more pre-K seats, not fewer, said Lisa Donlan, president of the District 1 Community Education Council.

"I am greatly concerned for our community," Donlan said. "Many residents are among the working poor. A leg up through early childhood education is essential."

In 2010, the Children's Workshop School received 186 applications for its 36 pre-K seats, and the East Village Community School received 165 applications for its 36 seats, according to DOE data.

Under the DOE's proposal, each school would offer just 18 seats.

The demand for pre-K seats is already so high that Robin Williams, principal of the East Village Community School, said last year that she would like to open a third pre-K section so she didn't have to turn so many families away.

"It's hard to have parents come in here and say [to them], 'Sorry, we just can't do it,'" Williams told DNAinfo last year.

Williams also previously said that overcrowding at the school has gotten so bad that some students are being crammed into space meant for offices.

The Department of Education acknowledged the problem in a presentation to the District 1 Community Education Council earlier this month, noting that the building is short one full-sized classroom and about four administrative rooms.

One potential solution would be to relocate P.S. 94, the school's special education program.

The DOE is reluctant to do that because that program predates the two general education schools, and moving it would impact the highest-needs students in the building, according to a DOE presentation obtained by DNAinfo.

P.S. 94 has also developed a relationship with the Children's Workshop School, and the DOE wants students at the two schools to continue working together, the DOE said in the presentation.

In addition to cutting the number of pre-K classes at East Village Community School and the Children's Workshop School, the DOE is also proposing to combine some smaller classrooms into larger ones and to reduce the number of incoming sections at P.S. 94, according to the presentation.

The Department of Education did not immediately comment.

The Community Education Council is working with parents to discuss alternatives to the DOE's proposal, Donlan said.