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New Murray Hill School Gives East Side Parents More Choice

By Mary Johnson | February 11, 2013 7:22am

MURRAY HILL — For the 2013-2014 school year, parents on the East Side are looking at a rapidly changing school environment — with new facilities and less-crowded school zones that parents and education officials say will benefit students.

The East Side of Manhattan between East 14th and 59th streets is home to three high-performing elementary schools: P.S. 116 in Kips Bay, P.S. 40 in Gramercy and P.S. 59 in Midtown East.

Beginning in the fall of 2013, another school, P.S. 281, will join the mix, with a brand-new building on First Avenue and East 35th Street.

Parents have been anxiously awaiting the new school’s opening, anticipating that a new elementary school could help stem sweeping overcrowding problems in the area that have led to lengthy waiting lists for incoming kindergartners and, at P.S. 59, first-graders, too.

Recently, the District 2 Community Education Council changed the zoning for P.S. 281, a process that also will shrink the zones for P.S. 116, P.S. 40 and P.S. 59 over the next two school years.

“The hope is that could lead to positive changes in those [existing] schools, where there’ll be less crowding and hopefully smaller class sizes,” said Eric Goldberg, a member of the District 2 CEC, when the new zoning was approved back in December.

Parents and officials acknowledge that it will take some time for the schools to reap the benefits of that rezoning. Those students who are already enrolled at existing schools in the neighborhood will be allowed to stay put, and their siblings will be guaranteed entry into the same institutions.

“We’re optimistic but kind of cautiously optimistic,” said Randi Strudler, a former PTA president at P.S. 116.

“While over time it will help with the incoming classes, it’s unclear what the immediate impact will be,” added Strudler, whose son is in fourth grade at P.S. 116. “I think it’s going to take a couple years to actually see that runoff and actually benefit from the reduced intake.”

P.S. 40, Augustus Saint-Gaudens Elementary School, 320 E. 20th St.

P.S. 40 in Gramercy consistently performs well on the Department of Education’s school progress reports, both in terms of student performance and overall school environment. The school emphasizes literature and mathematics, as well as social studies and performing arts programs, according to the PTA’s website. It also offers after-school clubs ranging from story-time theater and chess to cartooning, dance, music and karate.

P.S. 116, Mary Lindley Murray School, 210 E. 33rd St.

One of the area’s most sought-after and high-performing schools, P.S. 116 has an extremely active PTA that uses parent dollars to maintain a slew of offerings at the school, including after-school programs such as chess, Lego robotics and rollerblading. The school, which is housed in an older building in Kips Bay, also recently renovated its playground area and secured $750,000 in City Council funds to finance construction that would turn the school’s gym into a combination gym and auditorium, parents said. 

P.S. 59, Beedman Hill International School, 233 E. 56th St.

P.S. 59 moved into a brand-new building on East 56th Street between Second and Third avenues at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, adding more space to accommodate the loads of neighborhood families eager to attend. According to InsideSchools.org, P.S. 59 offers a strong academic program that emphasizes the importance of playtime. The school’s zone encompasses the United Nations, which creates a student body composed of children from more than 50 different countries.

P.S. 281, 425 E. 35th St.

This new K-5 elementary school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013. It currently does not have a website, but information about the school’s new zone can be found on the District 2 CEC website.