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New West Village Middle School Sparks Frustration Over School Zones

 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 —  Families from Greenwich Village to Battery Park City are fighting to make sure a proposal to zone a new middle school slated to open in Manhattan's largest school district doesn't leave their kids in the lurch and out of the school zone.

The newest middle school in District 2 will be 75 Morton — which includes Battery Park City up to 59th Street on the west side — when it welcomes its first class of 6th graders in September 2017. It is likely to be a zoned school, as the Department of Education is seizing the opportunity to provide a zoned school to a large swath of Hell's Kitchen that has gone without guaranteed middle school seats in a specific school for years.

The DOE proposed two possible zone scenarios last month, both of which would map onto existing elementary school zones. One version of the zone map includes P.S. 89 and P.S. 276 in Battery Park City, and P.S. 234 in TriBeCa, and the other does not, cutting off the zone at Canal Street. Lower Manhattan parents are pushing to make sure the plan to leave them out of the zone doesn't happen.

But in both proposals, a school in Greenwich Village, as the proposals currently stand, is left out.

For some families in Greenwich Village, the decision to zone the new middle school coming to 75 Morton St. along elementary school lines, including P.S. 41 and excluding P.S. 340, is opening old wounds afresh for residents of West 12th Street.

► READ MORE: Here's What You Need To Know About the New Middle School at 75 Morton St.

When P.S. 340 opened a few years ago, the DOE drew the boundary for the new elementary school's zone right down the middle of West 12th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, separating the north side of the street from the south. Families that had long been zoned for P.S. 41 were no longer part of that school's student body, even though it was just one block away.

Residents of West 12th Street said the boundary "separates our block and our neighborhood and our community," and asked Superintendent Bonnie Laboy "to include all of 12th Street in the zone for P.S. 41 and 75 Morton."

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

"Our block has been divided in half by a school zoning line," said Peter Leonardi, a member of the West 12th Street Block Association, at last month's Community Board 2 meeting.

Marguerite Martin, the block association's co-chair, feels the boundaries aren't arbitrary, but were drawn with the intention of excluding the families in the condos that replaced St. Vincent's Hospital from P.S. 41.

But the real effects are felt by longtime residents of the Village, she said.

"My children went there. We considered ourselves part of the P.S. 41 community. We have generations of P.S. 41 families that were left out," Martin said. "The people at 79 West 12th look out their windows and see P.S. 41. and they can't go there anymore. It's really upsetting."

Martin and her neighbors wanted the P.S. 41 northern boundary to end at 14th Street — both for the sake of community and for the sake of their children's safety.

"It seemed like a certainly more natural barrier, instead of children who are across the street from P.S. 41 having to cross 14th Street. It's a dangerous intersection," she said.

Community Board 2 issued a resolution in March calling on the Department of Education to not zone according to elementary school lines, and to make sure all residents of CB 2 are included in the zone for 75 Morton.

► READ MORE: M.S. 104 Fears Charter School Intrusion With Loss of Students to 75 Morton

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

In Lower Manhattan, Community Board 1 is throwing its support behind parents' push to make sure the neighborhood's three west side elementary schools are included in the zone.

Students at P.S. 89, P.S. 276 and P.S. 234 are now zoned for Baruch Middle School in the East 20s, something parents say is not a practical commute for their children.

"Baruch is a fantastic school, but it just doesn't make sense logistically for Baruch to be our zoned school," said Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent and a co-chair of CB1's youth and education committee, "It's not a practical or convenient choice for most families Downtown, on the west side."

There was some concern voiced about Baruch losing students if the new zone were put in place, but Joyce found through her research — by asking the principals of each school — that most students who were assigned to Baruch, but didn't initially choose to go there, just didn't go.

"There really is no impact to Baruch because most students who don't choose to go there, don't end up going just because they are assigned to the school," Joyce said.

The DOE will ultimately create a final zone proposal that District 2's Community Education Council will vote on for approval. The timeline for that process was not immediately clear.