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School Updates [✜]

Its been a busy week or two on the local school front, with two raucous meetings on two separate issues related to two failing elementary schools.

First, a rumor surfaced last week that MS 577, which is currently housed in trailers in the playground of PS 132 (Manhattan and Metropolitan) would be relocated to PS 17 (Driggs and North 5th). Given that 17 is undersubscribed, and is not using all of its space, such a move makes some sense. It would allow overcrowded 132 (one of the neighborhood's better-rated schools) to reclaim its playground, open a library and provide other basic services one would expect from a public elementary school. The principal of 17, needless to say, was not happy with the usurpation of his space, and mobilized parents. This all came out at a CEC meeting last week, where angry parents spoke out against the relocation of 577. The relocation of 577 has been a pressing need and, I think, a priority of the DoE. But its still not clear to me that DoE intends (or ever did intend) to move 577 in the unused space at 17.

Second, an older rumor that a charter school would be going in to the underutilized space at PS 84 (Grand and Berry) resurfaced. The principal of 84, not happy with the usurpation of her space, posted flyers alerting parents and calling a PTA meeting. As it turns out, a charter school was never planned for 84 (a fact confirmed to me by a source at DoE), but some other type of school-within-a-school might be. As presented at the PTA meeting, DoE is planning to put a K-5 "Discovery School" into 84, again, using excess space at the facility (of which there is plenty).

Both of these reactions (and they are reactionary) seem to be responses to an effort on the part of DoE to identify unused or underused school facilities. District 14 (Williamsburg and Greenpoint) is listed by DoE as a "declining enrollment" district. This has been true over the past 10 to 20 years. But the designation is based on census figures that are now almost a decade out of date, and ignores the fact that recent rezonings are projected to add 10,000 new housing units between 2005 and 2015 (that doesn't begin to count the new housing units outside rezonings areas, such as, uh, the Southside). In the midst of these demographic crosscurrents, DoE has embarked on a "space utilization" study citywide, the goal of which is to identify underutilized spaces within schools and find appropriate educational uses to go into them. But the principals of these two failing elementary schools seem intent on keeping their schools half-empty and irrelevant.