UPPER WEST SIDE — A shorter waitlist at a popular and overcrowded local school this year means a district rezoning could be pushed back another year, the Department of Education told local education leaders.
With a shorter waitlist at P.S. 199 — 30 students were waitlisted this year compared with 90 last year — the rezoning process can be delayed until 2018, according to a member of Community Education Council 3 who spoke to the DOE.
A district rezoning, which the city already delayed a year by withdrawing its initial rezoning plan last fall, would change the boundary lines determining where neighborhood children go to school. The move is intended to reduce overcrowding and increase diversity.
CEC 3 member Kim Watkins, who has been leading the council's zoning committee, told her colleagues that officials in the DOE's District Planning Office gave her the news.
"It’s possible that we might not rezone for 2017, in that the waitlist for [P.S.] 199 is small and waiting for the Riverside Center [school] might be the next best option," Watkins said, after speaking with DOE officials.
The Riverside Center school is set to open at 21 West End Ave. in 2018 and will serve 692 students.
A DOE spokeswoman said that all options are still on the table.
“We are continuing to explore several options and engage closely with the community to ensure the zones best meet the needs of families," she said.
However, CEC 3 members rejected the idea of waiting to rezone, saying they're hoping to get a revised map sooner rather than later so they can authorize it in time for the 2017-2018 school year. The CEC has the final say on any zoning changes, though the DOE has been supplying the specific maps.
"I do very strongly believe that we need to rezone for 2017," Watkins told her colleagues, pointing to longer waitlists at P.S. 9 and P.S. 87 this year as evidence of the need for action to halt overcrowding there.
And P.S. 199, which CEC 3 members said is at 140 percent capacity, will continue to face overcrowding if their zone isn't changed, said DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul.
"The [P.S. 199] zone is too big to accommodate five [kindergarten] classes," she explained. "They’re currently at six [kindergarten] classes so they can accommodate their zone."
CEC members insisted they should go ahead with their plan to vote on a rezoning this fall, despite the DOE wanting more time.
"I think the way we’ve always considered zoning is that we would drive the process… we try to figure out the best solution.... and then we try to get the DOE to give us a plan," said CEC member Noah Gotbaum.
"I’m hoping that we’re going to continue to do that," he added.
Real estate brokers have said that the uncertainty around the rezoning process has made potential buyers at the southern end of the neighborhood wary about committing until a plan has been finalized.