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Planned FiDi Middle School Gets Green Light to Open Following Outcry

 Spruce Street School parents gathered to celebrate news that their middle school was on track to open.
Spruce Street Rally Turned Celebration
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FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Parents at the Spruce Street School cheered the city's decision to allow their school to expand into a middle school next year, turning what would have been a planned protest into a party Wednesday.

Dozens of parents gathered in front of the school at 12 Spruce Street, which sits in the base of Frank Gehry’s undulating residential tower, to celebrate the Department of Education's Tuesday announcement that Spruce's middle school was on track to open in 2015.

“We were so thrilled with the news, we figured might as well turn this protest into a celebration,” said Spruce Street parent Marie Collins, 46. “We just had to make some different signs.”

Parents had feared the school, which currently serves students in Pre-K to fourth grade, would not be able to expand into a K-8 school after Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña hinted that overcrowding could be an issue, the Tribeca Trib reported.

Parents quickly gathered more than 1,000 online and paper signatures protesting the possibility that the middle school wouldn't open as planned.

A rally to draw attention to the fight to save the middle school was set for Wednesday morning, but on Tuesday afternoon Spruce principal Nancy Harris sent out an email saying the DOE was moving forward with the middle school.

Two sixth-grade classes will start in the fall of 2015, Harris said.

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

The elementary school, which opened in the building in 2011, has long been planned as a K-8 school, though the DOE decided in 2010 to hold off on growing the middle school until 2015. That decision infuriated local parents, who feared the middle school might never open, as the kindergarten space crunch in the neighborhood continued.

The popular but overcrowded schools in Lower Manhattan have continually had an issue with kindergarten waitlists and room for incoming students.

On Wednesday morning, though, parents were excited they wouldn't have to worry about middle school admissions for their young children, who will now automatically receive a spot in Spruce's sixth grade.

"I was so happy when I heard the news, I started screaming in a playground with my kids," said Elizabeth Chen, a parent of an incoming kindergartner and third-grader at the school.

"We seriously would have moved to Connecticut if the middle school didn't open here — the process to find a spot for your child is so difficult and competitive in the city."