PROGRESS REPORT: Ready, set, go for fall ’17 at 75 Morton school

Advocates say 75 Morton St., above center, represents a model process on how to create a new school.
Advocates say 75 Morton St., above center, represents a model process on how to create a new school.

BY JEANNINE KIELY | Later this month, M.S. 297, the new middle school at 75 Morton St., will admit its inaugural class of students who will start sixth grade in fall 2017!

This past summer, the Department of Education named Jacqui Getz principal for M.S. 297, giving her a full year to launch the new school. This amount of prep time is more than principals have had in the past and was in response to community actions around the creation of the school. Getz brings 30 years of experience as a teacher, literacy expert, assistant principal at P.S. 234, principal at P.S. 290 and, most recently, principal of P.S. 126 / MAT a pre-K-to-eighth-grade school in Chinatown. Getz will implement an inquiry- and project-based curriculum and hire teachers experienced at supporting and challenging a diverse range of students.

Admission to M.S. 297 is by zone or screen. Students who live in the zone and choose 75 Morton are admitted automatically if D.O.E. gets to that choice in the students’ priority list, and those outside the zone are screened based on grades, academic and personal behavior, attendance and test scores. The M.S. 297 zone includes most of the west side of School District 2, from W. 59th St. south to Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Tribeca and Battery Park City. Unlike other partially zoned schools, M.S. 297 will offer one track or program, though the school may offer honors classes for subjects like math.

For the 2017-18 school year, M.S. 297 will be co-located at the nearby Clinton School for Writers and Artists, at 10 E. 15th St., due to unforeseen construction delays at 75 Morton St. Clinton is another new school building that opened two years ago. For its inaugural year, M.S. 297 will have Clinton’s seventh floor for up to 170 students.

In fall 2018, M.S. 297 will move into 75 Morton St., a 177,000-square-foot, seven-story handicap-accessible building. In addition to classrooms, science labs, art and music rooms, facilities include a ground-floor, light-filled cafeteria, library and double-height “gymatorium,” with retractable seating, and outdoor play yard. M.S. 297 also will have a green roof, thanks to $500,000 from Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer.

With the opening just around the corner, the community supports naming M.S. 297 the Jane Jacobs Middle School in honor of Jane Jacobs  — not only for her legacy of community-based urban planning and the preservation and regeneration of the West Village and surrounding neighborhoods, but also for how our community’s advocacy for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. embodies her legacy. For 10 years, the community pushed for a new middle school and weighed in on the building’s purchase, configuration of grades, school building design, educational philosophy, admission methods, community partnerships, funding for a green roof, after-school programs and the school’s name.

Going forward, the hope is that D.O.E. will embrace the 75 Morton model of local community engagement and input for how the city sites, designs and envisions new public schools.

For details about M.S. 297, please visit https://www.cecd2.net/ms297-at-75-morton-street.

Kiely is chairperson, C.B. 2 Schools and Education Committee