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Pairing P.S. 191 with New School Would Increase Diversity, Leaders Say

By Emily Frost | November 3, 2015 4:46pm
 Leaders at P.S. 191 (at right) want to share a zone with the new P.S. 342 (at left), they said.
Leaders at P.S. 191 (at right) want to share a zone with the new P.S. 342 (at left), they said.
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Dattner Architects; DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — PTA leaders and staff members at P.S. 191 are advocating for the school to transition to serving pre-kindergartners through second-graders under a new zoning proposal, with its upper grades moving to the new Riverside Center school.

The School Leadership Team (SLT) at P.S. 191, which is made up of staff members, the PTA president and parents, voted unanimously Monday to propose a zoning solution that they believe will help better integrate P.S. 191.

The pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school currently counts 73 percent minority students, according to the Department of Education. 

In a letter addressed Monday to Community Education Council 3, which has the final vote on any rezoning, the SLT proposed that P.S. 191 share a zone with P.S. 342, the new 500-student public school opening in 2018 at the base of 21 West End Ave.

A shared or "super zone" has come up in previous discussions, with proponents advocating for P.S. 191, P.S. 342 and nearby P.S. 199 to share a zone. However, this new plan would only involve a shared zone between P.S. 191 and P.S. 342.

Under the plan, all students in pre-kindergarten through the second grade would attend P.S. 191, while students in the third through eighth grades would move to P.S. 342, the letter states. 

When P.S. 342 opens in September 2018, rising third graders who would have continued on at P.S. 191 would instead become the first class at P.S. 342, explained CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum, who spoke with the SLT about the plan. A new grade would get phased in each year after that.

The two schools will only be located a block from each other. The letter did not elaborate on where the zone lines should be drawn.

The underlying assumption of the plan is that it would boost integration by combining a population drawn from NYCHA's Amsterdam Houses, who are zoned to attend P.S. 191, with more affluent families moving into luxury developments at the Riverside Center. The idea that has been recommended by residents and leaders before as a way to achieve better equity and diversity.

The SLT wants the shared zoning lines to go into effect for the 2016 school year, the letter states. Members also stipulated that they strongly disagree with the idea of a lottery for admission to P.S. 342 or P.S. 191. Pairing the two schools, with each serving different grades, would make that unnecessary, they said.

"It’s an intriguing idea... we need to take it seriously. There’s about a million and a half questions that need to be asked," said CEC 3 President Joe Fiordaliso at a meeting Monday night after hearing the proposal.

DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul said she didn't want to comment on the idea until she'd had more time to consider it, but she noted in her initial reaction that leading a third- through eighth-grade school is challenging.

The letter outlining the plan did not address or mention P.S. 199, which is facing overcrowding issues.  

"The problem we’re currently having [with P.S. 199 overcrowding] — I’m not really sure how that’s helping," Altschul said. 

The CEC agreed to take the plan into consideration.

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