Manhattan’s P.S. 191 will start the school year with a new building, a new name and new educational programs. The question is whether that will be enough to help racially and economically integrate the school.
On Wednesday, Principal Lauren Keville showed off the freshly constructed building that will house P.S. 191, now also known as the Riverside School for Makers and Artists. The school was at the center of a controversial rezoning decision aimed, in part, at reducing segregation in District 3 on the Upper West Side.
“Make no mistake: This occasion is about more than just a building. It is about integration. It is about equity of all students,” Keville said.
The new 122,000-square-foot building features two rooftop play areas, a science lab and dedicated art and music rooms. Shiny orange tiles line the walls, as well as light blue mosaics.
The education department hopes that, with a redrawn attendance zone, more white and affluent families will enroll at the school, which this year will have a new third-grade gifted class and an additional kindergarten class. Special programs center on science and the arts.
“We’re focused on innovative and inclusive initiatives that allow students to build together, create together and ultimately grow together,” said Andrew Chu, a parent who was rezoned to the school and is helping to launch new programs there.
P.S. 191 has historically enrolled mostly black and Hispanic students from nearby public housing. With a needy population, the school’s test scores are lackluster compared with other area schools that serve mostly white, Asian and well-off students. P.S. 191 has also fought to shed the stigma of having been labeled dangerous in the past.
Preliminary numbers show an enrollment of 475 students, 25 more than last year. An education department spokeswoman said that number is expected to go up; the building has room for almost 700 students. Demographic information for the incoming kindergarten and gifted class was not available.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who attended Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting, implied that integration was now largely in the hands of parents. “Now, the people who have to walk the walk are the people who have to register their kids,” she said.
Facing pressure to integrate schools across the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña have pointed to District 3 as a success story. On Wednesday, Fariña said it could serve as a model for future plans.
“We want to be able to do what we did in District 3 in at least three to four more districts,” she said. “We’re working on it.”