NYC Public School Parents is hosting a copy of the DOE's much-anticipated "Blueprint for District 2 Enrollment and Capacity." At a recent meeting about overcrowding in District 2, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the fact that such a document was on its way was one "sign of progress" in reducing overcrowding in the district's schools — but I wonder whether he still feels that way, having read what the DOE proposes in the preliminary planning document.
"We know that an appropriate plan for District 2's elementary schools will require not only new construction but also enrollment adjustments and efficient use of current facilities," DOE officials write. Contrasted with district residents' thoughtful identification of existing space that could be used for schools, the proposal is thin on ideas for new construction, describing only the plan, announced recently, to convert part of one Greenwich Village building into a 600-student elementary school and one other new idea for construction, in Kips Bay. (Two elementary schools are already planned to open in Lower Manhattan in 2010, and a middle school expansion project is also underway on the Upper East Side.)
While the DOE says it is planning to add nearly 3,000 new seats in elementary and middle schools in District 2, it also asks for two unpopular commitments from District 2 officials and schools. First, it calls for a reduction in out-of-district enrollment in some of Manhattan's most popular schools, a reduction that is already underway thanks to the DOE's own "proactive oversight" of admissions and one that is sure to undermine schools' efforts to maintain diversity in some of the wealthiest zip codes in the city. The DOE also calls for a rezoning of the entire district to account for new schools and resolve some current sticky issues, such as the zone-sharing between PS 3 and PS 41 in Greenwich Village and the lack of a zoned school for children in the old PS 151 zone on the Upper East Side. And it suggests that 5th graders at overcrowded elementary schools in Lower Manhattan be bused to buildings more than a mile away, an option that is sure to please parents who secured apartments with the neighborhood schools in mind.
The letter is packed with tidbits about what families in District 2 (and beyond) might expect as the DOE continues to centralize admissions procedures. It's definitely worth a look. And if you're in District 2, you can respond to your local community board, the Manhattan Borough President's office, or by taking an online survey about school overcrowding. And if you're in other parts of the city — perhaps you're in South Brooklyn, where anti-overcrowding momentum appears to be mounting — you might start thinking now about what the DOE can, and should not, do to relieve overcrowding in your area.