Keep P.S. 150 somewhere Downtown, says C.B.1

BY KAITLYN MEADE AND JOSH ROGERS  |  Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee is calling for P.S. 150 to move to a larger  school building somewhere in Lower Manhattan rather than go up to Chelsea, as the city proposed last month.

While a hypothetical relocation to a larger school raised some eyebrows, the handful of P.S. 150 parents at the May 14 meeting generally approved of the new resolution and stressed the importance of their school being made available to Downtown families and remaining a part of the Tribeca community.

Wendy Chapman, head of P.S. 150’s P.T.A., thanked the committee for their hard work and active role in the ongoing drama since the news about the move went out on April 24.

She also took a moment to reiterate that the location itself in Tribeca was an important part of the school’s character, saying “People want to emphasize that P.S. 150 is part of our community and that means Manhattan Youth, that means Taste of Tribeca, that means the Tribeca Film Festival, that means Washington Market Park, that means the baseball field, that means Hurricane Sandy, that means the Putt Putt golf across the way. That’s our community, you know…. All of those things are walkable within five minutes of our school.”

The resolution heralds a potential compromise with the D.O.E., allowing a move from the small school building and one-class-per-grade model that has characterized it in its 30 years since it started as an early childhood learning center. However, both leaders of the committee warned parents that some compromise was necessary as the D.O.E. was most likely going to move the school one way or another.

“What they’ve already said is that there will be no one admitted to the kindergarten of 150 in 2014,” said Tricia Joyce, chairperson of the committee. “What this was was a phase out of 150, not a relocation.”

Paul Hovitz, the Education Committee’s co-chairperson, said, “I think you would be hard-pressed at this point, and the parents should know, that you should accept that this school is going to grow. And our intention — from all of the stuff that Tricia and I have been hearing from other sources too — is that this school is not going to stay as a one-class-on-a-grade-school. It is going to grow. Our intention is to make sure we don’t lose you from our community. And that is what we’re going to fight for.”

The final decision on P.S. 150 has been pushed to September. The new school that C.B. 1 and elected officials have been fighting for is a zoned, five-section-per-class school located below Canal St. It is the minimum amount of space needed to solve the area’s ever-growing overcrowding problems, said Joyce.

“My thought was to take what they want to do, and do it here,” said Joyce. “In other words, keep your school community together, move them into a larger — which we have been fighting for for some time and are making a full court press — on a five section per class school for Lower Manhattan, and have P.S. 150 do their growing out there.”

While Corie Sharples, a member of C.B.1 and P.S. 150 parent, said the idea of a five-section-per-grade school scared her a little, she added that there were also good reasons to consider expanding, especially for the upper grades.

“As much as we at P.S. 150 would all just like to be left alone the way we are, we understand that there are two sides, we are not unwilling to consider the idea that maybe the school would grow, but it’s really important to us to stay Downtown but it’s also important that we keep that character. So if there were a situation in which the school were proposed to grow, we want to make sure we keep that consideration of the small school feel…small school and community school,” she said.

Joyce, Hovitz and the other members of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s school task force are scheduled to meet June 12 with D.O.E. planners and are hoping the city recognizes the need for a new school in Lower Manhattan. At a task force meeting earlier this month to discuss the 110 children waitlisted for this year’s kindergarten class, different D.O.E. officials were chastised by a principal and parents for not moving plans along more quickly to find places.

Hovitz said the officials sent to the meeting were like “cannon fodder.”

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