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P.S. 191 Should Move Into New Riverside Center School Building, Leaders Say

By Emily Frost | November 18, 2015 10:31am
 Leaders at P.S. 191 (pictured at right) want the school to move into the new Riverside Center building opening in 2018 (at left).
Leaders at P.S. 191 (pictured at right) want the school to move into the new Riverside Center building opening in 2018 (at left).
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Dattner Architects; DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — Education leaders are pushing for the controversial P.S. 191 to move into a new building opening in 2018 at the Riverside Center development as a way to rebrand the K-8 school and draw new interest from parents. 

Ideas for how to help P.S. 191 have swirled among members of Community Education Council 3, elected officials and parents since the school was designated "persistently dangerous" by the state this summer.

The Department of Education later came forward with a rezoning plan that would move families zoned to attend P.S. 199 into the P.S. 191 zone, a move not everyone favored given P.S. 191's designation and lower test scores.

Now, P.S. 191's School Leadership Team (SLT), which is made up of teachers, PTA members and parents, is requesting that the school be relocated to the new Riverside Center school building.

Construction on the 500-seat school, called P.S. 342, is already under way. It's slated to open in September 2018 at 21 West End Ave. 

Shifting P.S. 191 into the new building and opening P.S. 342 in P.S. 191's current building at West 61st Street and Amsterdam Ave is a "win-win," said Community Education Council 3 member Theresa Hammonds at a meeting Monday. 

"It gives [P.S. 191] an immediate opportunity to re-brand, to see their school anew and want people coming in the building," she said. 

The re-branding is "especially important after the [persistently dangerous] designation," she added.

Members agreed that the move would send a message to parents who might be rezoned to have their children attend P.S. 191 instead of the higher-performing P.S. 199.

"We’re signaling to any parent going to 191 that they will be in a bright, shiny new building... by the time your kid is in second grade, they would be in this new building," said CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum. 

He also saw the move as a way to "signal to the community that [P.S. 191] really is a school that should be looked at and supported," he said. 

Other CEC 3 members thought that while the move sounded like a good idea, perhaps it was worth waiting to see how the rezoning shook out. 

"It’s a little bit early to offer this up," said CEC 3 member Lucas Liu. "The challenges in front of [P.S. 191] don’t change just because you move into a new building."

Ultimately, CEC 3 approved a motion to move P.S. 191 into P.S. 342.

Another proposal on the table that hasn't been decided yet is to create a shared zone for P.S. 342 and P.S. 191 and to pair the two schools with each other.

Under that plan, which advocates say will increase diversity at both schools, P.S. 191 would serve the pre-kindergarten through second grades, while P.S. 342 would serve the third through eighth grades.

The next CEC3 calendar meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 87 on West 77th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.