Last night's meeting approving Park Slope school rezonings

Last night's meeting approving Park Slope school rezonings

Last night the District 15 Community Education Council voted to implement the Department of Education’s proposed rezoning of some Park Slope elementary schools.

While the final plan does not accommodate every concern raised (and I understand that some of you remain disappointed) I believe the adopted plan does a good job of balancing challenging but important goals: addressing elementary school overcrowding, strengthening existing schools, creating great new schools, and advancing a new policy for diversity.

The two new elementary schools that will open in Park Slope next year -- the new school that will be sited in the St. Thomas Aquinas building (4th Avenue at 8th Street), and the new PS 133 building (4th Avenue and Butler Street) -- are being set up for success.

Elizabeth Garraway, the new school leader for the school in the St. Thomas Aquinas building, knows what it takes to develop a rich curriculum and energized school community. She will have the support of PS 321’s Liz Phillips and myself to get the school off to a great start. As I’ve said from the beginning, I fully expect the new school at the St. Thomas Aquinas building to be Park Slope’s next great school. See below for how you can get involved.

The new PS 133 will be a great, non-zoned choice for parents in Districts 15 and 13. It will offer dual language programs in Spanish and French. And thanks to the activism of the CECs and parents, it will open with groundbreaking affirmative action policies that will ensure it will stay a diverse school as it grows in coming years. The Department of Education has agreed to reserve at least 30% of the seats for English Language Learners and students who receive free or reduced-price lunch. This is the first time that a non-charter New York City public school will have these diversity policies and is a real step forward for efforts citywide to combat growing segregation in our schools.

I’m also pleased to report that the Department of Education has also committed to offer full-day pre-K at both of these new schools.

Councilmember Steve Levin and I worked closely in this effort, since the affected districts and schools cut across both of our City Council districts. We both want to thank CEC 15 and its chair Jim Devor, as well as CEC 13 and its chair David Paul Goldsmith, for organizing a process that allowed for everyone’s voice to be heard. Carrie Marlin of the NYC Department of Education also worked very hard over the past several months, listened to input from the community, and improved the proposal based on feedback. And each of the principals from existing schools -- Eve Litwack (PS 107), Heather Foster-Mann (PS 133), Liz Phillips (PS 321), Anita de Paz (PS 39), and Laura Scott (PS 10) -- spent time talking with parents and neighbors and the DOE and the CEC, to make sure each of these schools continues to offer great education to all our kids. While I know not everyone is happy with the rezoning, we are incredibly lucky to have these neighborhood public schools.

But our work is just getting started. I will be partnering with principals and PTAs to ensure that the new school at the St. Thomas Aquinas building and the new PS 133 have the resources they need to become great schools.

One concern that came up at last night’s vote was pedestrian safety on 4th Avenue, where both new schools are located (and existing PS 124 is as well). The strip has long been a safety concern, and I have been working with the Department of Transportation, Borough President Markowitz, Community Boards 6 and 7, the Park Slope Civic Council’s Forth on Fourth Committee to bring traffic calming, larger medians, countdown clocks, the left-turn arrow at 9th Street, and other improvements to 4th Avenue.

DOT is planning a public meeting early next year for you to give input on what kind of improvements you would like to see on 4th Avenue going forward.

Finally, even though the new school at the St. Thomas Aquinas building cannot legally form a PTA until there are students at the school, I know parents already want to start advocating for their school. I’ve spoken with Elizabeth Garraway and she is eager to get started, and is planning to bring potential parents and friends together at a meeting in early January. I look forward to supporting these efforts. If you are interested in joining a “Friends of PS ... (looking forward to it having a number soon!)” meeting, please sign up here and we'll make sure you get the details.

Thanks again for all your communication during this process. While it has not always been easy, I emerge confident that working together, we will keep our neighborhood public schools the treasures of our community, and springboards for our kids’ bright futures.