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UWS School District Redrawing Would Expand 2 Zones While Shrinking Another

By Emily Frost | September 29, 2015 6:05pm
 The new plan would increase the size of P.S. 191 and P.S. 452's zones and shrink the P.S. 199 zone.
The new plan would increase the size of P.S. 191 and P.S. 452's zones and shrink the P.S. 199 zone.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Education released its initial plan to change zoning lines in the lower half of the neighborhood's school district Monday night, increasing the size of two zones while shrinking another it deems overcrowded. 

Zoning lines break up a neighborhood into smaller pockets, or "zones," which are used to determine where children attend elementary school. 

The rezoning proposed by the DOE would increase the size of the zones for P.S. 191 and P.S. 452, while shrinking the zone for P.S. 199, which has had persistently long waitlists in past years. 

"I would categorize this plan as aggressive to the point that it does... eliminate any waitlist at 199 for the 2016 school year," said Sarah Turchin, director of planning for the department.

At the same time, the DOE is "mindful of the fact that [P.S. 191 doesn't] have unlimited space," and the agency will ensure "that we’re not just shifting an overcrowding problem from one school to another," she said.

The new plan would also create zoning lines for P.S. 342, the new K-5 elementary school opening in 2018.

Community Education Council 3 has the ultimate authority over any changes to district zoning lines and will vote on a plan in November, after the DOE publicly presents the final version to the community on Oct. 7 and 17. 

The final plan would go into effect for the 2016 school year, and thus impact where parents can apply for kindergarten this spring, DOE officials noted. 

Under the DOE's plan, P.S. 342 and P.S. 191, both on West 61st Street, would share a zone. Once the new school opens, parents living in that zone would rank either P.S. 342 or P.S. 191 as their first choice. If there isn't space for them at their first choice, they would receive an offer at the other school, DOE officials said. 

Diversity in the District

Another goal of the rezoning is to increase diversity across local elementary schools, Turchin explained. As of now, a high concentration of "minority" students attend P.S. 191, while nearby P.S. 199 has a high concentration of non-minority students, she said. 

Moving the zone lines would increase racial diversity at P.S. 191 and P.S. 199, Turchin told CEC 3 members and parents at a meeting Monday. 

Ostensibly, the racial and socioeconomic makeup at P.S. 342 and P.S. 191 would be more equitable as well, with parents from NYCHA's Amsterdam Houses having the option to choose the new school, and parents from the new Riverside Center luxury development having an equal chance of admission to either school, Turchin said. 

At a meeting this past May on the rezoning, some members of the Amsterdam Houses expressed a desire to stay at P.S. 191, while others said they wanted to try the new school.

Projected diversity changes under the new plan include: 

► P.S. 199 would shift from 36 percent minority students to 40 to 50 percent.

► P.S. 191 would shift from 73 percent minority students to 40 to 50 percent.

► P.S. 452 would shift from 30 percent minority students to 25 to 35 percent.

Details of the Proposed Plan

The proposed zoning-line shifts include the following (which can also be viewed in the map below):

► Streets shifted from the P.S. 199 zone to the P.S. 452 zone: 

The south side of West 70th Street between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue; all of West 69th Street between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue; the north side of West 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue; all of West 68th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues; the north side of West 71st Street between Amsterdam and West End avenues.

► Streets shift from the P.S. 199 zone to the P.S. 191/P.S. 342 zone:

The south side of West 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue; all of West 67th and 66th streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue; the south side of West 66th Street between Central Park West and Amsterdam Avenue, as well as between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive; the south side of West 67th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.

These shifts would change the expected enrollment numbers at the schools involved.

► P.S. 199 will shift from a 193-student zone to a 100- to 110-student zone. 

► P.S. 191 will shift from a 55-student zone to a 120- to 130-student zone.

► P.S. 452 will shift from a 69-student zone to an 80- to 90-student zone. 

Questions of Space

Turchin assured parents that both P.S. 191 and P.S. 452 have the capacity to grow.

When P.S. 452 opened in 2011, the plan was to increase its capacity from two kindergarten classes to three. It currently still has only two classes.

"We’re working to make sure [P.S. 452] can phase in as they were planned to," she said. 

But some parents noted that P.S. 452 already shares a building with a K-8 school and a middle school. Adding students isn't just a matter of finding classroom space; there's also the shared gym, cafeteria and outdoor space to worry about, they said. 

The DOE has not yet met with the other principals in the shared O'Shea complex, the Anderson School and the Computer School, but Turchin said officials planned to soon. The DOE will know for sure in the next week whether P.S. 452 can definitively handle the increase in its zone size. 

If not, "we will return to the drawing board," Turchin said.

P.S. 191 is currently under-enrolled and can handle serving a larger zone alone until P.S. 342 opens in two years, she added.

While new construction may be completed near the school between 2016 and 2018, the DOE doesn't anticipate P.S. 191 being able to handle increased enrollment during this period, Turchin said. 

A Super Zone and Other Scenarios

One of the rezoning scenarios some CEC 3 members and parents have pushed for is the creation of one zone to serve P.S. 199, P.S. 191 and P.S. 342 that students could apply to and get in by lottery. 

But DOE officials said they don't recommend this course of action because parents would be traveling farther to get to the schools. There would also likely be a dichotomy between the "preferred school" and the "overflow school," with parents pushing to get in to one school and then left disappointed if they were placed in another, they said.

Disappointed parents with the means would then seek another option, and the overflow school would have a harder time building community among families who saw it as a last resort, officials explained. 

Parents and residents can weigh in on the zoning plan at upcoming public forums on Oct. 7 at P.S. 333 (154 W. 93 St.) and Oct. 17 at P.S. 191 (210 W. 61st St.). They can also submit feedback via the CEC's survey here.