Spruce middle is still a go

The Spruce Street School plans to open its first sixth-grade class in 2011, the Dept. of Education said this week.

The D.O.E. had not previously announced when the new K-8 Spruce Street School would expand from an elementary school to a middle school, and some parents speculated that elementary overcrowding in Lower Manhattan would make it impossible for Spruce’s middle school to open at all.

But Danny Kanner, D.O.E. spokesperson, said this week that Spruce would open its sixth grade at the same time as the school moves into its permanent home in the base of the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman St. tower. That move is scheduled for September 2011.

Kimberly Busi, a Spruce parent and member of the school leadership team, said she is already working with Principal Nancy Harris on plans for the middle school.

However, Eric Greenleaf, a P.S. 234 parent and leading overcrowding activist, said he still isn’t convinced that Spruce will be able to fit the middle school.

“We’re very excited by idea of a middle school at Spruce, and very troubled by idea that there might not be room,” Greenleaf said.

The Spruce Street School can only hold two classes per grade, but the school took in three kindergarten classes this year and plans to take in three kindergartens next year as well. Busi said the three kindergartens are small enough that they can collapse to two first grades, leaving plenty of space for a middle school. Greenleaf, though, is concerned that Lower Manhattan’s population growth will prevent collapsing grades in the future.

Once Spruce starts graduating fifth graders, those children will be guaranteed a seat in the school’s sixth grade. Until then, first priority for the sixth-grade seats will go to children who live in Spruce’s elementary zone, which is still being determined by the District 2 Community Education Council.

— Julie Shapiro