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Parents who support controversial Upper West Side school move: ‘We welcome the idea of rezoning’

A meeting at P.S. 191, an elementary school in Manhattan's District 3.
A meeting at P.S. 191, an elementary school in Manhattan's District 3.
Patrick Wall

In recent weeks, dozens of Upper West Side parents have voiced their objections to a proposed rezoning that would move P.S. 452 to a new home 16 blocks south. While the move would give their school room to grow, it would also add to some families’ commute time and potentially change the demographics of the school.

P.S. 452’s population is 74 percent white and Asian and 9 percent low-income, in a district that is 43 percent white and Asian and 48 percent low-income.

Chalkbeat recently reported on the coordinated campaign mounted by some parents to block the plan. But not all P.S. 452 parents are in their camp. A group of them sent us this letter for publication:

As parents of P.S. 452 students, we welcome the idea of rezoning and relocation of our school to the current site of P.S. 191 on 61st Street and Amsterdam Ave.

The 61st Street facility will allow the stellar educators of P.S. 452 to expand the school’s curriculum with dedicated spaces for a variety of services, including occupational, physical, and speech therapy. The building features appropriate classrooms and spaces for elementary students ages 4-11, a private playground structure and large yard for physical education and recess. The facility has a well-maintained, air-conditioned auditorium for assemblies, concerts, community meetings, and more. Separate art, music, science, gym, and media lab spaces provide students with valuable enrichment opportunities. The opportunity is at hand to build a robust educational experience under the leadership of Principal Parker and his excellent team.

P.S. 452 teachers have expressed concerns about the constraints they face in the current space, which is shared with two other schools. P.S. 452 is unable to fulfill its mandate of three sections per grade at its current location without further sacrifices from its own student body and serious impingement on the operations of its co-located schools. P.S. 452 students currently have limited access to common spaces including the auditorium, gym, yard, and cafeteria. Teachers and administrators must constantly synthesize schedules, make contingency plans, and coordinate movements, which has become increasingly complicated as P.S. 452 has grown. The move presents an opportunity to bring a high-performing school with a cohesive team of educators to a better, dedicated facility.

Some opponents of the move claim that owners of real estate in the zone of P.S. 452 have made a “pact” with the city that ensures that the status quo will be indefinitely maintained. But the idea that the quality of public education should be proportional to the purchasing power of local residents is unacceptable. The city is accountable to all New Yorkers. Moving P.S. 452 is an opportunity to do the right thing by allowing a successful school to serve more children.

Some parents worry about a longer trip to school. The inconvenience of a short bus ride or a longer walk pales in comparison to the much greater good of the superior school facility and a student body from a wide range of backgrounds, which research consistently shows is better for all children. If the commute is indeed a problem, current P.S. 452 students should be given a choice to switch to another school in the 70s.

Regardless of the decision to relocate P.S. 452, the Department of Education and Community Education Council 3 have stated that a large-scale rezoning of District 3 will occur in 2017. Moving P.S. 452 to its own stand-alone building promises tremendous long-term benefits despite short-term challenges. The Upper West Side needs to commit itself to a future in which excellent educational opportunities will be available to children from every background. We urge the Department of Education to make a formal proposal in support of the move.

Submitted by:

Amy Aversa, Brett Alperowitz, Nancy Becker, Melissa Birnbaum, Elam Birnbaum, Hilda Blair, Susan Blank, Jared Blank, Sheila Boland, Dave Campanile, Sila Cevikce Shaman, Karen Dahl, Sarah Danzig Simon, Vesna Dapic, Stephanie German, Anne Eidelman, Jean Goshko, Alan Halperin, Wendy Halperin, Ami Kantawala, Karen Kemp, Greg Kemp, Melissa Kraft, Ken Miller, Patricia Mayer, Lauren Monchik, Sapna Moudgil-Shah, Eboni Navas, Willie Navas, Jr., Stefanie Nelson, Adam Parks, Allegra Parks, Rachel Pincu-Singer, Adam Pollack, Abby Rapoport, Amanda Rives, Brian Reich, Jorge Rosero, Mark Seaman, Guy Singer, Prital Shah, Jeff Shaman, Beate Sissenich, Amy Staub, Brian Staub, Heather Tait, Marcos Tiburcio, Annmarie Weiss, Jack Weiss, Samrat Worah

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