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Dozens of Students at 'Dangerous' P.S. 191 Requested Transfers

By Emily Frost | December 17, 2015 11:34am
 Twenty-seven students requested a transfer from P.S. 191 this fall, the DOE said.
Twenty-seven students requested a transfer from P.S. 191 this fall, the DOE said.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — More than two-dozen students have requested to transfer out of a local elementary school that earned a "persistently dangerous" designation from the state over the summer, officials said.

P.S. 191, the K-8 school that has been fighting the controversial designation for months, had 27 students request a transfer this fall, the Department of Education said. 

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students have the right to transfer if their school receives a "persistently dangerous school" (PDS) label. 

The DOE would not say which grades the students were in nor which schools they were transferred to. The DOE can't guarantee where a student will get transferred, and the best offer might be a location out of the district, District 3 Superintendent Ilene Altschul told leaders in August. 

Furthermore, students wait-listed for the popular P.S. 199 were given priority at nearby District 3 schools, ahead of any P.S. 191 students who might request a transfer, she said.

The transfer process was still ongoing as of late October but has since closed, a DOE spokesman said.

Since news first broke that P.S. 191 landed on the list — a determination school officials, PTA members, parents and elected officials all believe was a mistake — resources and support have flowed into the school.

"The more programs they offer and the more secure parents and kids feel in there, the easier it will be to shed that label," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said. "That takes time to develop."

Rosenthal is committing $150,000 in capital funds to help the school, meeting with Principal Lauren Keville to get her specific requests for what would be most beneficial. 

The school is in the midst of fundraising for a library, a place that would not only hold books but also serve as a gathering place for mentoring and tutoring programs focused on reading and literacy. Materials and infrastructure for the library will likely be a big part of Keville's request, Rosenthal said. 

The school has also submitted an application to be considered for Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal's participatory budgeting process, said her chief of staff, Marisa Maack. 

The DOE will not release details regarding the number of violent incidents that have happened at the school so far this year, a decision that has aggravated elected officials and education leaders. 

However, "in all our conversations with the DOE, we hear only encouraging things. We feel very confident that [the designation is] going to be lifted as soon as it possibly can," Maack said.

The earliest the designation can now be removed is this coming summer. 

In addition, the school now has a full-time guidance counselor instead of just a part-time one as a result of $36,000 in funding from the councilwoman, Maack said.

Helen Rosenthal's office also contributed $20,000 to add an after-school program for the middle school, $20,000 for Lincoln Center classroom visits and curriculum, $8,500 for a reading program and $36,000 for a theater program.  

P.S. 191 is also feeling buoyed by a positive review on the school review website Inside Schools in November, said Altschul at a recent Community Education Council 3 meeting.

Additionally, four of its students were recently accepted to the specialized ballet school Ballet Tech, she said.

The DOE will soon embark on a series of meetings with the school to address its needs, a commitment it made when the agency recently tabled its planned rezoning process. 

"I hope the DOE is spending more time and resources than they have in the past," Rosenthal said. "They knew [P.S. 191 was] landing on that list, so they should have invested more resources."

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