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M.S. 104 Fears Charter School Intrusion With Loss of Students to 75 Morton

 The Department of Education is proposing two scenarios for zones for the new middle school at 75 Morton St. One includes the west side below Canal Street, the other stops at Canal Street.
The Department of Education is proposing two scenarios for zones for the new middle school at 75 Morton St. One includes the west side below Canal Street, the other stops at Canal Street.
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Department of Education

WEST VILLAGE — Administrators and faculty at a popular District 2 middle school are concerned they'll lose students to a middle school currently under construction under the city's plan to create a zone for the new school.

M.S. 104, also known as Baruch, is the zoned school for some 850 families in Manhattan's largest district. Their zone encompasses much of District 2, spanning from the southernmost tip of Manhattan up to 23rd Street on the west side and 59th Street on the east side.

The DOE is making the new school, 75 Morton, a zoned school for a large portion of the west side of District 2 that has been unzoned for years, leaving families in Hell's Kitchen and Midtown South without a school where their child is guaranteed a seat.

READ MORE: City Eyes Swath of Midtown for Students at West Village Middle School

Hell's Kitchen resident Carolyn Truffelman, who has a 7th grader at Baruch and a 3rd grader at Midtown West, said at a public meeting Monday night that she feels "bitterness about being in the unzoned area" for so long and was "speaking up for the neighborhood that has been unzoned for a really long time and has never had these options."

The DOE is proposing two potential zones for the school. Both would begin at 59th Street on the west side, encompassing the unzoned area and extended downtown past the school.

The east side would remain zoned to Baruch.

The proposals differ below Canal Street.

Under Scenario A, everything below Canal Street would be zoned to Baruch. Under Scenario B, the area would be split, with the west side zoned to 75 Morton and the east side to Baruch.

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

Families on the east side can get to Baruch's building at 330 East 21st St. more easily than they can get to 75 Morton, and more easily than families on the west side can get to Baruch, DOE official Sarah Turchin said at a District 2 Community Education Council public meeting Monday evening.

"Travel is a lot more easy and common north-south as opposed to east-west," said DOE official Sarah Turchin at the Monday meeting, hosted by the District 2 Community Education Council.

The DOE also wants to draw the zone boundaries so that they line up with elementary school zones, even though zoning works according to residence, not elementary school.

Under Scenario B, 75 Morton would be zoned with elementary schools P.S. 234 and 276. Turchin said only a small percentage of students from those schools apply to Baruch, while about 50 percent from the east side schools do.

Baruch principal Rocco Macri came to the Monday meeting, along with several teachers and the school's PTA president, Sandra Blackwood.

Macri worried that under Scenario B, Baruch's applicant pool would plummet from 850 to 440.

"That's half," Macri said. "That's a large part of our zone. And I can't imagine that that wouldn't result in a diminished school enrollment."

Baruch is a large school in a sprawling building, but Macri worried that if their enrollment numbers were to drop at all, he would lose funding and the DOE would seize the opportunity for co-location and try to squeeze a charter school in with them.

"That is not something that I think our school community is in favor of, nor would be interested in," Macri said. "We've shown that a large school building can work, can be effective, can thrive."

To CEC members who wondered if the charter threat is "a legitimate concern," CEC president Shino Tanikawa said it is.

"It's always a legitimate concern. As long as Eva Moskowitz exists, it is a concern," she said, referring to the founder of the controversial Success Academy charter schools.

Truffelman noted that her child was able to get into Baruch and loves the school. While the subway transportation is limited, there is a bus that goes almost door-to-door from Hell's Kitchen, she said.

"I just want to make sure we're really giving thought to this area that is unzoned," she said.

Tanikawa and the other CEC members urged Truffelman to encourage her neighbors to attend the next public hearing on the zoning proposals on Thursday, March 10, at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 340 at 590 Sixth Ave. between 16th and 17th Streets.

The presentation of the proposed zones can be reviewed online.

The public will have one more opportunity to weigh in at the CEC's calendar meeting on March 15. Feedback can also be emailed to d2zoning@gmail.com.

The DOE expects to present a final proposal at the end of March or early April, Turchin said. The CEC will then have 45 days to vote on the zone. The zone must get the approval of at least six of the CEC's 10 members.