Zone split O.K.’d for Village schools; Reaction split, too

From left, District 2 Community Education Council members Eric Goldberg, Shino Tanikawa, the council’s president, and Michael Markowitz during a C.E.C. meeting last month about the school zone split.   Photo by Sam Spokony

From left, District 2 Community Education Council members Eric Goldberg, Shino Tanikawa, the council’s president, and Michael Markowitz during a C.E.C. meeting last month about the school zone split. Photo by Sam Spokony

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  In a close finish that one member called the hardest decision she’d ever had to make there, the District 2 Community Education Council voted on Wednesday night to split the zone currently shared by Greenwich Village’s two public elementary schools, P.S. 3 and P.S. 41.

The 6-to-4 vote — a vote that had been delayed nearly two months due to the extensive and passionate debate between teachers and parents from both schools — approves a Department of Education proposal to split the zone that P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 have shared for 42 years. The split will go into effect in 2014.

And in an unexpected turn made about an hour before that decision, the council also voted to amend their resolution of approval in order to request the inclusion of the Westbeth Artists Housing complex in the catchment zone that will now belong to P.S. 3.

Westbeth residents had argued previously — as well as on the night of the vote — that the alternative, arts-based curriculum at P.S. 3 is better suited to the needs of their children and families.

The amendment calls for D.O.E. to shift a portion of the new dividing line up three blocks. In the small notch west of Washington St., the line would move north from Perry St. to Bethune St.

A D.O.E. representative who was present at Wednesday’s meeting said that the change is acceptable to the department, and said further that D.O.E. will return to the next C.E.C. meeting with a new map to take the amendment into account. The three-block change will not become part of the approved zone split until the council officially votes on it at that later meeting.

Members of the P.S. 41 community lauded the council’s decision to approve the split, saying that a continued shared zone would have worsened the disastrous overcrowding problem that has forced the W. 11th St. school to deal with huge class sizes and sacrifice classroom space for art, science, music and drama in recent years.

But P.S. 3 parents and teachers were groaning as they left the meeting, since they’d continuously — and often emotionally — argued that, among other things, the council would be wrong to take away the benefit of choice offered by a shared zone. P.S. 3 was, in fact, founded in 1971 on the principle of choice, as a neighborhood alternative to P.S. 41.

Moments before the members voted, C.E.C. President Shino Tanikawa addressed the crowd to acknowledge that the process leading up to the decision had been an extraordinarily difficult one, for the council members as well as the communities of both schools.

“Regardless of how the vote turns out, I just want you all to know that we have done our best,” Tanikawa said. “I know it hasn’t been perfect. But we’ve thought about this very deeply, and we’re all coming to this decision from a very personal place. We have done our best.”

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6 Responses to Zone split O.K.’d for Village schools; Reaction split, too

  1. It was a difficult decision, but in the end it was the right decision. In a zone as overcrowded as the 41/3 zone is, parents can no longer be afforded the luxury of "choice" (which, for the families turned away from P.S. 41 each year, isn't a choice at all). By splitting the zone in two, the DOE ensures P.S. 41 and P.S.3 share the burden of overcrowding as equitably as possible. As it stands now, up to 80% of all families in the shared zone rank P.S. 41 as their first choice each year. Because the DOE tries to accommodate as many of those families as possible, this leads to a large and ever-widening imbalance in annual enrollment numbers, which in turn compromises the education and safety of the students at 41 and saps the time and resources of administrators there forced to juggle the wait list and to deal with the many families trying to get off of it. School choice was an admirable idea but not a sustainable one. It is time that we as a community accept that reality and move on.

  2. An updated school district map with the subject demographic population numbers would be helpful to supplement this article.

    Also the possibility of introducing a new school and/or district for the NYU proposed LaGuardia Place/Bleecker Street site might better describe these decisions and conditions to the community.

  3. "Westbeth residents had argued previously — as well as on the night of the vote — that the alternative, arts-based curriculum at P.S. 3 is better suited to the needs of their children and families." Wow. That argument was counted? How come Westbeth gets an exception but my kid who lives in the village and who is the child of village kids now has to attend a school in Chelsea?

  4. I still believe that NYU should be forced to deliver on their promise of an elementary school in the central village. That is what would help the most with overcrowding. And then choice, for all, could perhaps be preserved.

  5. annoyed resident

    We are getting screwed, because some hippies want their kids to go to PS3. Thank you very much

  6. i think this vote was 6-5 unless i miscounted. in any case, a tough but smart decision. ps3 shoudl be a citywide choice school but that's not been possible because of the DOE's poor handling of space issues all around. having it be choice school only with 41 was no choice at all. it just resulted in overcrowding ps41.

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