School saved! P.S. 150 will stay Downtown

P.S. 150 parents and students came out in force for the school last spring at the Tribeca Film Fest's family fair. Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess.
P.S. 150 parents and students came out in force for the school last spring at the Tribeca Film Fest’s family fair. Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPT. 5, 2013  |  By KAITLYN MEADE  | After months of meetings, protests and worry, parents at P.S. 150 were glad this week to hear city assurances once and for all that their tiny Tribeca school would not be relocated to Chelsea next year.

The decision was communicated to parents by District Superintendent Mariano Guzman and the school’s principal Jenny Bonnet. Guzman on Tuesday notified the handful of parents who had been at the last meeting with the Dept. of Education on Aug. 26 in a final attempt to petition them to keep the school Downtown, said P.T.A. president Wendy Chapman. Bonnet then forwarded the statement, confirming the news.

Guzman’s Sept. 3rd statement, said simply: “The Department of Education will not be releasing an Educational Impact Statement regarding the relocation of PS150. Please let your parent community know. Thank you and your school community for the time and effort taken to discuss this matter over the last several months.”

“We are very thankful and appreciative that Mariano Guzman and the D.O.E. did not issue the move to Chelsea. We are relieved,” said Chapman, speaking for the dedicated core of parents who continually campaigned to keep the school at its 334 Greenwich St. location. She said it was a team effort, with the help of Community Board 1, local elected officials, the Community Education Council and parents.

Chapman said that representatives from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senator State Daniel Squadron, Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office came to the final August meeting. Chin also attended in person, said Chapman, and was “very adamant” about not busing students out of the neighborhood.

“P.S. 150 is well-loved and respected in our community for its commitment and dedication to its students, and I thank the D.O.E. for listening to the many voices that came together to keep the school in place. In Lower Manhattan, where the population growth outpaces the building of new schools, every school seat counts. We will continue to work together to preserve schools like P.S. 150, and also identify sites for additional much-needed schools that ensure our students’ continued educational success,” said Chin in a public response to the D.O.E. decision.

Officials requested a hold until the 2015 school year, when the opening of the Peck Slip School would offer more seats and therefore options to alleviate school overcrowding, and free up school’s incubation space in the Tweed Courthouse.

Parents and Community Board 1 are also hoping for a November commitment in the capital budget for a brand new elementary Downtown to provide as many as 1,000 school seats. By all accounts, Dept. of Education officials have already acknowledged that Lower Manhattan needed those additional elementary school seats.

“My sense is [the D.O.E.] has every intention of relocating the school,” said Hovitz, but hopefully, to a building that is still in the neighborhood, where it can grow out more naturally.

Chapman was especially glad that the announcement came before the beginning of the school year, even though the D.O.E. was not scheduled to vote on the proposal or release an educational impact statement until September 19.

“It’s nice to know what the decision is and to make things really clear,” Chapman said. However, there will be lots of “fences to rebuild,” she added.

Many of the teachers and school staff supported the D.O.E.’s planned relocation on the grounds that they would have more resources and support in a larger school. There are also concerns that the school’s uncertain future impacted kindergarten enrollment, which could lead to budget cuts.

In the spring, principals at the nearby schools reported increased waiting list numbers as a direct result of the original P.S. 150 announcement in the spring.

“It’s a shame it went to this extent because many parents have lost the school…” Hovitz said, noting that he knew of a parent who moved her kindergarten-aged child to a private school during the controversy, as did others in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, for the families that did sign up for the school’s single kindergarten class, P.S. 150 will hold its annual first day Watermelon Social in Washington Market Park to welcome them to a school with a new lease on life, for a few years at least.