New school is another milestone, but much still to be done

BY Sheldon Silver,

NY State Assembly Speaker

This week’s announcement that a new elementary school will open in Lower Manhattan is great news for our children. I have long led the fight to open more classroom seats Downtown and this is yet another milestone in our efforts to relieve overcrowding and improve the quality of education that our students receive.

Through the work of my School Overcrowding Task Force, we have now opened several new schools Downtown to serve our rapidly growing population and I am enormously proud of that success. When I see our PS 276 students arriving at their brand new school in Battery Park City in the morning, I am proud of how our community came together to get that school built. This fall, when I see the doors open at the Spruce Street School, it will be another reminder of the strides we have made for Downtown families. And when this newest school opens at the Tweed Courthouse in anticipation of moving into yet another new school at the Peck Slip Post Office site, I will know that we have delivered a great deal for Lower Manhattan children.

But we must remember that there is so much more to be done. As Lower Manhattan has become one of our city’s most desirable neighborhoods, our population has exploded. New families are moving in and new children are being born at a rate that exceeds what the Department of Education has planned for over the next few years.

While the new schools that we have opened have been essential in improving the overcrowding problems we face, those problems are far from solved. When the new school opens at Tweed, I expect it will be filled to capacity virtually from the first day. Rather than staying one step ahead of our overcrowding problems, the Department of Education is barely keeping up.

I have been pressing the DOE to open new classroom seats at Tweed this fall, rather than waiting for the 2012-2013 school year, and I have called on the School Construction Authority not to delay the potential opening of the Peck Slip space, so that if it is purchased for a new school we can get our children in there as soon as possible. In addition, I would like the DOE to open middle school classrooms at Spruce Street this fall to ensure that we have space for all the grades we were promised would be accommodated. When it comes to giving our children quality educational opportunities in small class sizes, we do not have a moment to waste.

I have spent my entire career in public service fighting to improve the quality of our children’s education and I continue to work each and every day to make sure that Downtown families have access to the best schools we can give them. We have come a long way in rebuilding Downtown since the 9/11 tragedy. Lower Manhattan, now one of our city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, has come roaring back. We have truly achieved our goal of creating a 24/7, family-friendly community and I am committed to making sure that we maintain our world-class neighborhood as a place where people want to live, work, shop and visit.

Ensuring quality schools is a major part of that effort and one that I, along with my partners in the community, have made a top priority. I want to thank all of those who have stood with me in this effort, including local parents, members of Community Board One, and my fellow elected officials, and I want to assure all of Lower Manhattan’s families that I will continue to fight for more schools, smaller class sizes and a top-notch education for every child.