through the cracks

Students are being zoned for P.S. 64, a school the city is closing

CAP (Photo: Luke Hammill)
P.S. 64 families protested the school’s poor quality before its closure hearing in February. (Photo: Luke Hammill)

A quirk in the city’s complicated school system means that some families are being told that their children must attend a school that the city deemed so low-performing that it should not be allowed to enroll any new students.

In the South Bronx, the Department of Education this year decided to close P.S. 64, a long-struggling elementary school — with some parents’ support. In September, the youngest children at P.S. 64 will begin attending two new schools that are opening in the building, in keeping with the city’s preferred model for phasing out low-performing schools, while older students will stay on until the last ones move on to middle school.

But even though no new kindergarteners will enroll at P.S. 64, some students have been zoned for the school. About two dozen families at P.S. 170, a nearby school that serves children in kindergarten through second grade, have been told that their children are zoned for third grade at P.S. 64.

Unlike P.S. 64, which has received D’s on its two most recent city progress reports, including an F for student performance, P.S. 170 received a B on its most recent progress report.

Parents at P.S. 64 are so concerned about the fact that the school will still serving students until 2016 that they are rallying at the Department of Education’s headquarters today to ask for improvements. According to Emma Hulse, an organizer with the New Settlement Parent Action Committee, which has worked with P.S. 64 parents for years, P.S. 170 families that are zoned for P.S. 64 will also attend the rally, which is aimed at drawing attention to the larger issue of how the next mayor will improve struggling schools.

P.S. 170’s parent coordinator, Maritza Zapata, said the school recently held a meeting for families of the 24 second-graders, out of 88 total, who are zoned for P.S. 64. To avoid the low-performing school, families must petition the city for a different assignment using a “Placement Exemption Request.”

Department officials said they had previously discussed the fact that P.S. 64 is taking in new third-graders with community members. But Marilyn Espada, president of the District 9 Community Education Council, said she had not been informed about the zoning.

“It’s not a good idea because those kids are doing good where they’re at now,” she said. “Why bring them to a school that’s being phased out?”

That’s the same question that many P.S. 170 parents are asking as well.

Cristina Contreras, whose son attends P.S. 170, graduated from P.S. 64’s sixth grade years ago. She said she is under the impression that the school is completely different now, with lots of fighting and little homework or student learning.

“I’ve heard of kids who were A students at P.S. 170 and they’re failing at that school once they get there. … I wouldn’t want any kid to have to end up in a school where it’s already known they’re going to fail,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling that children are being zoned to that school.”

Like any families that don’t like their zoned school, parents of P.S. 170 students who are zoned for P.S. 64 can apply for permission to go elsewhere. But the department is under no obligation to fulfill their requests, which must be filed by July 19 at the borough enrollment office.

And even if they do receive another choice, busing isn’t available for children who attend schools other than the ones they are zoned for — an issue that has prevented other families from taking advantage of the option to leave low-performing schools for stronger ones.

“Over the last 10 years have worked to fix a broken system that forces children into failing schools,” said a department spokesman, Devon Puglia. “We do everything we can to ensure students have access to high-performing schools throughout their neighborhood.”

Kisory Valdez applied for a transfer for her son, who attends P.S. 170 and is zoned for P.S. 64 next fall. She went to the borough enrollment office and asked if her son could attend P.S. 204, a successful school that other students at P.S. 170 are zoned for. The office told her that her son couldn’t go there, but he could transfer to P.S. 70, which Valdez said is equally as bad as P.S. 64. The school also posts very low test scores and does not move students forward quickly, according to city and state data.

As Valdez explained what she’s heard from P.S. 170’s principal, other parents, the city, and New Settlement, it’s clear how confusing the process has been for her.

“I’m totally exasperated,” she said. “I feel very hopeless and frustrated.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.