The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Parents Want Admissions Process at 75 Morton St. to Promote Diversity

 Parents debated prioritizing diversity at a meeting to discuss the potential admissions process for District 2's newest middle school, 75 Morton.
Parents debated prioritizing diversity at a meeting to discuss the potential admissions process for District 2's newest middle school, 75 Morton.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

UNION SQUARE — The West Village's new middle school should be as diverse as it is high-performing, parents said.

More than 100 local parents met Monday to discuss what type of admissions process the highly anticipated school should have.

The school — referred to by its West Village address, 75 Morton St. — is under construction and expected to welcome its first class of students in September 2017.

The goal of the meeting, held at the Clinton School for Writers and Artists and organized by the District 2 Community Education Council and the 75 Morton Community Alliance, was to familiarize parents with various types of admissions — screened or unscreened, zoned or not zoned — and what kind of student bodies the different processes typically create.

Chief among the issues discussed was diversity.

"Can we embrace inclusivity as a value?" asked Shino Tanikawa, president of the District 2 CEC, adding that the Department of Education "is actually getting ready to let schools define diversity."

Tanikawa noted that some middle schools in Brooklyn are already working to make their student bodies diverse, and she brought in the principal and middle school director from the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, who urged parents to prioritize bringing in children with varied backgrounds and learning levels.

Principal John O'Reilly told the nearly 200 parents gathered in the auditorium that his school is "unscreened with a priority towards socioeconomic diversity."

Arts and Letters director Meg Crouch also urged parents to embrace diversity as well as "different types of learners" in their new school.

"If the vision for your school is to be creating students who as adults are going to be strong contributors in our vibrant democracy, you need to prepare those students to get along with all different types of students, to understand multiple perspectives," Crouch said.

Peck Slip School Principal Maggie Siena said having a school that is both diverse and high-performing "can be a hard mix to achieve," but Crouch maintained that "with support, with careful attention, and teaching deliberately so that students can succeed together," schools can do it.

"You have these beautiful interactions that you never see anywhere else. Students sitting at a table next to each other — [who] if they didn’t have the opportunity to come to this school together, they would never have been speaking together — talking about their different backgrounds, what they eat, trips they’ve taken," she said. "And it’s going to make them stronger adults. It’s going to make our city a stronger city."

Many parents agreed.

"Here we have children that will be growing up with tremendous privilege and power when they get older — they have privilege now, they will have power later — and what they don’t have access to is racial diversity," said West Village resident Mary Anne Powers, 47, whose son is in the third grade at P.S. 3. "For my son's future, and for our country's future, I think this is hugely important."

Because 75 Morton is in the very affluent and largely white West Village, many felt that making it a zoned school — one that automatically accepts applicants who live within a designated area — would hinder the goal of diversity.

The Dept. of Education is already pursuing making 75 Morton a zoned school, but Tanikawa reminded the audience that any zone must be approved by at least six of the CEC's 10 members.

"Some people are of the impression that because the [District 2] superintendent initiated this process, it's a done deal," Tanikawa said. "But I don't want you to think that way."

Staffers from the DOE's Office of District Planning are expected to present a rough idea of "what they're thinking" to the CEC at a Tuesday night meeting, Tanikawa said. She said she's been told they're focusing on transportation as they try to determine a potential zone, which could include any part of Manhattan's District 2, which spans from Battery Park to 59th Street on the west side and 96th Street on the east side.

After a public hearing in February, the CEC is expected to ask the DOE for revisions based on the feedback from the public, and then hold more hearings on a revised plan.

The CEC must vote on an admissions by mid-April.