Solving school crowding


The wait continues for solutions to Lower Manhattan’s perennial school wait lists. In a sense, the problem is unavoidable, given the city until now has decided not to make accurate population projections Downtown. There’s no sense continuing to beat up the Department of Education when there are real, immediate decisions that the city could make right now to alleviate parents’ anxiety.

For starters, send out kindergarten seat offers now for every slot open in Lower Manhattan. There are about 15 openings that are sitting there, while the Education Department waits to get answers for everyone.

Every day that goes by without an offer is another day of unnecessary pain for 110 families. Some are looking to move out of an area that the city, state and federal government have been working for decades to grow  — an effort that took on a renewed urgency in the years after the 9/11 attacks.

Second, decide right now how many more temporary classrooms are going to be opened at Tweed Courthouse, on Chambers St. This decision alone has the potential to solve the entire problem — it certainly could put a huge dent in it.

D.O.E. has not yet even considered this solution, which is literally under their noses in their own headquarters.

The building is being used as temporary space for the Peck Slip School. The school, when it opens in 2015, will be able to accommodate five kindergarten classes, but now it can only take in two per year in temporary space. That means the school could potentially accommodate three more classes — 75 students — if  more classroom space were found.

Third, propose a plan for P.S 150 that parents support. Even if there are merits to the idea of moving the non-zoned Tribeca school to the new “Foundling High School” in Chelsea — a point we’re not at all conceding — the timing of the proposal was disastrous, making a horrible overcrowding situation worse. A solution to this problem will reduce the waiting lists at the other Lower Manhattan schools.

Incoming P.S. 150 parents expecting to get a small neighborhood school have had their long-term plans upset. Parents are now being pitted against parents as these families naturally look for space in other Lower Manhattan schools.

At the very least, the current P.S. 150 community, including incoming kindergartners, deserves an assurance that they will continue to have seats in their current building or at a suitable site in Lower Manhattan.

That may not satisfy all families, but we were pleased to see that the P.S. 150 parents who attended Tuesday night’s Community Board 1 committee meeting generally supported the board’s resolution to find a new Lower Manhattan location for a larger P.S. 150.

We were glad to see Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver press the city to speed up its timetable for quicker answers. His critics will no doubt see this as Silver unfairly throwing his weight around — but the fact is the population growth in Lower Manhattan is unique to the city, and Downtown is lucky to have such a powerful advocate.

D.O.E. should not let one more day go by without actively pursuing every potential school location that the dedicated members of Silver’s task force have suggested.

Last Friday, at Silver’s school meeting, one of the wait-listed parents invited D.O.E. representatives to come to explain to her daughter why the girl can’t continue at her school after pre-K.

Officials can make 109 other visits like that, or they can start making some of those families happy now.