Good school news

The good news last week was that the city announced it was going to try hard to find space for a new elementary school on the West Side somewhere between Hudson Square and Battery Park in the next few years.

As any 12-stepper knows, first you must admit there is a problem. That typically comes after years of denial, and the Department of Education has been true to form. Before we move away from this analogy, it is important to recognize that there indeed is a greater power that will help the city: the collective wisdom of the Downtown community, which continues to look for school space.

The exploding birth rates and development south of Canal St. also have implications in the Village and Chelsea, which have had their own overcrowding problems. The Village’s P.S. 3 just got more space, but it will also likely get Tribeca and Battery Park City kindergartners who will be shut out of P.S. 234 and P.S. 89 this September.

The city drastically reduced the size of the two Lower Manhattan schools’ zones this year, but despite D.O.E. assurances to the contrary, the zones were not small enough to accommodate the demand. A new elementary school is needed A.S.A.P.

We also worry about where all these kindergartners will be going to middle school in six years. Will Harvard soon be easier to get into than Lab School? And what about the new K-8’s? Will the next super-desired neighborhoods be southern Battery Park City and the South St. Seaport with their guaranteed middle school seats at P.S./I.S. 276 and Spruce St. School? Finding more school space and rethinking middle school admission policies and zones are difficult and complicated topics that need to move front and center now.

We did not have the sense the D.O.E. was taking parents’ school site suggestions seriously until last week’s meeting of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Lower Manhattan task force on school overcrowding. Parents suggested the old Burlington Coat Factory spot at least a year and a half ago and were ignored. We’re told the Park Place building sold last summer for less than $5 million, while the city is spending $250 million for a 30-year lease in the Financial District to house a high school and Greenwich Village Middle School, which was bounced from P.S. 3.

We’ll take school space where we can get it, although finances can’t be ignored and obviously keeping G.V.M.S. close to home would have been a far better solution. The state-owned building at 75 Morton St. remains an ideal potential school site and we were pleased to hear that Silver will continue to work to get a school there.

We were also glad to hear that D.O.E. just took the suggestion of our sister publication, Downtown Express, to help relieve this year’s problem by expanding the enrollment at P.S. 276 and opening it up to Gateway Plaza. Good ideas are coming from many places, and if the city stays in its new listening mode, the best solutions will be easier to find. One day at a time.