UPPER WEST SIDE — A long-awaited new public school on the Upper West Side will open in September 2017, a year earlier than expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
"This is part of a citywide effort in terms of creating new school space. As we know, there are some communities that have such distinct need," de Blasio during a press conference inside the unfinished space of the school that will serve as both a gymnasium and auditorium.
The school is located at 21 West End Ave., on the bottom of a luxury residential tower built by The Dermot Company. P.S. 191, which was just released from a state list of the most dangerous schools, will occupy the space with 700 kids from grades pre-K to 8, pending approval from the Panel for Educational Policy.
Students will enjoy an open and airy design, two rooftop playgrounds, a science suite and art rooms.
P.S. 191 Principal Lauren Keville said last winter some of her students went to the newly renovated West End Secondary to judge a contest and were wowed.
"They came back and said 'Ms. Keville, the technology that they have there, the furniture that they have there, everything is brand new. Can we get that?'" Keville recalled.
In February, the School Construction Authority said that the school would be delayed until September 2018 because of problems finishing the shell of the building. The delay meant the The Dermot Company couldn't begin the bidding process for interior construction in time to open in 2017.
SCA cited the bureaucracy of working on public projects with the delay.
But de Blasio said SCA was able to work with the developer, and at the urging of local politicians such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, get the project on track.
Asked whether his administration was doing enough to address school diversity and segregation, de Blasio said the problem is one of "American history."
"I don’t think we can say, you know, we look at a societal trend decades or centuries old and say can we will it away overnight. My question — my way of responding to you would be, are we taking the steps we can take right now to make major changes," the mayor added.
De Blasio didn't outline any specific solutions but said efforts such as pre-K, teacher contracts and professional development needed to be in place before the city could start dealing with the issue.
The city is examining "new models that look at economic diversity and other factors" that will allow "diversifying schools in a way that is legally appropriate and very effective and that gets a lot of buy-in from communities," de Blasio added.
Rosenthal said current rezoning proposals are examining "approaches that would balance the diversity particularly of students in poverty across multiple schools."
But the need for new schools in the area is undeniable.
"We've seen massive residential growth with little added infrastructure for years," Rosenthal said.
"New schools should be a part of all new residential development projects," said Brewer.