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City to Delay Controversial UWS School Rezoning Decision

By Emily Frost | November 2, 2015 5:28pm
 The DOE will take more time to host small group meetings with schools directly affected by the rezoning plan.
The DOE will take more time to host small group meetings with schools directly affected by the rezoning plan.
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Department of Education

UPPER WEST SIDE — The Department of Education announced Monday it is postponing plans to present a final proposal for changes to the neighborhood's school zones, deciding instead to have more conversations with parents and the affected schools over the next month. 

The DOE will now host small group sessions with stakeholders at P.S. 199, 191 and 452, including principals and members of the PTA, in an effort to hear more concerns people have about changing the district's zoning lines, said spokesman Harry Hartfield.

The goal is still to roll out a new zoning plan for the southern part of District 3 in time for the upcoming school year, but the DOE also wants to accommodate people worried about the pace of the rezoning, he said. 

"Based on the feedback received, and our conversations with the [Community Education Council], the formal rezoning proposal will not be presented tonight to allow for more meaningful dialogue with impacted communities, and ensure that any potential rezoning is done with the input of the entire District 3 community," Hartfield said.

Under the DOE's current proposal, which Community Education Council 3 recently rejected, the P.S. 191 and 452 zones would grow and the P.S. 199 zone would shrink in an attempt to combat overcrowding at P.S. 199.  

The goal is to get the rezoning right, something the department is willing to take more time to do, Hartfield said.

But the current plan, presented in September, is not necessarily being shelved, he added. 

At previous meetings, the District 3 Superintendent Ilene Altschul had pressured the CEC to move quickly.

The DOE is now shifting gears in order to talk to more families about what they want, Hartfield explained. 

CEC 3, which has the final vote on any zoning changes, is currently divided as to which approach to take, with some members looking for more time and others wanting to act quickly.

The council has scheduled meetings in November to discuss the rezoning. 

Families from P.S. 199 and the school's PTA are calling for action now so that the school can relieve overcrowding. Recently, fifth-graders were delayed in leaving the building during a fire drill because of a student bottleneck, a situation the PTA cited as evidence of the danger posed by overcrowding.

If a new zoning plan that would alleviate overcrowding and lengthy wait-lists at P.S. 199 isn't adopted in time for the 2016-'17 school year, the enrollment office will work with parents to make sure they have other options, Hartfield said. 

"We will continue to work with the CEC to develop a rezoning proposal that addresses the overcrowding needs at these schools and reflects the diversity of the District," he said in a statement. 

Additionally, the DOE will put together a working group focused on supporting P.S. 191 and diversity in the district, he said.