Kindergarten classes in limbo, like middle school

By Albert Amateau

The District 2 Community Education Council last week was angry and worried that not enough room would be available for incoming kindergarten students in the district in September, especially at P.S. 3 on Hudson St. and P.S. 41 on W. 11th St.

John White, Department of Education chief of operations for portfolio programs, acknowledged at the March 25 C.E.C. meeting that the two Village schools were “three sections” over the agreed capacity for the schools. He said that sometime this week, the department would conduct a lottery for positions on a waiting list and send letters to parents telling them their options.

The three sections represent three kindergarten classes — about 75 students — according to Michael Markowitz, District 2 C.E.C. vice president and father of a P.S. 41 student.

“This is an intolerable situation,” Markowitz said, noting that the department had not yet told parents where their children might go to kindergarten. “The message has been the same for two straight meetings,” he said, referring to the previous C.E.C. meeting on Feb. 25. “We still do not have a precise report on how many kids there are for how many seats,” Markowitz said, adding, “Overcrowding has been on the table at least since January 2008.”

About P.S. 3 and 41, White said, “If we cannot get everyone in, there will be a set of schools where they can go.”

In response to a question from Shino Tanikawa, the district C.E.C.’s newest member and parent of a P.S. 3 student, White said there was available space in schools in Chelsea and Chinatown or the basement of department headquarters in the Tweed Building behind City Hall. But he was not able to promise any specific site.

Markowitz and other parents said later that Village parents who expected their children to attend zoned schools in their neighborhoods would resist sending them as far as two zone areas away from the neighborhood.

In a related matter, education and elected officials finally took the long-promised tour, arranged by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, of the state-owned building at 75 Morton St.

Village parents have pinned their hopes on the Morton St. building as a permanent new home for the Greenwich Village Middle School, which is now sharing space on Hudson St. with P.S. 3. The Morton St. site, however, needs work and is not likely to be ready in the coming school year.

Brad Hoylman, Community Board 2 chairperson, was one of the people who toured the building’s vacant seventh floor on March 26, the day after the C.E.C. meeting. In a subsequent e-mail to school advocates, he said, “At the elected officials’ request, the Department of Education is going to prepare a summary memo of their findings, but the strong sense I get is they will deem the site infeasible and they will end up considering another yet unannounced location in our district.”

In fact, White had told the March 25 meeting that in addition to Morton St., D.O.E. was considering leasing private property sites in the neighborhood for Greenwich Village Middle School, but he said he could not divulge the locations.

Nevertheless, Hoylman said, “I’m not writing the location off just yet, but even if this particular site doesn’t work out, 75 Morton St. became the rallying cry for a new middle school. …. And I think we should be happy that we actually got representatives of elected officials, the School Construction Authority, the Education Department and Governor Paterson’s office to take our proposal seriously enough to merit a tour and an official report on the space’s feasibility.”

The vacant seventh floor has 24,000 square feet of available floor space, compared to the 7,500 square feet the middle school now occupies on Hudson St. Hoylman said the Morton St. space “looked pretty compelling. However,” he warned, “the space has asbestos, which could be abated, but at high cost, apparently, and the stairways and elevators are apparently not up to city code.”

In addition to Hoylman, representatives of Quinn, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Borough President Scott Stringer went on the Morton St. tour, which was also attended by C.E.C. District 2 President Rebecca Daniels and White.