Thursday, January 20, 2011

Community Angered by Rezoning Proposal

By Eric Yun

Angry parents joined together at IS 119 in Glendale to protest the city Department of Education (DOE) proposal to rezone the school, a move they say would force children to cross busy streets and destroy the character of local neighborhoods.

The DOE’s Division of Portfolio and Plan- ning intends to redraw the schools’ enrollment boundaries after changing the facility to a K-8 school. IS 119 will begin expanding next year, and a new zone for kindergarten stu- dents must be created.

While creating the zone, Portfolio said it wanted to rezone the southern portion of the district to alleviate overcrowding and balance enrollment across the district. This means the current zones, especially for PS 113, 91, 68, 88, 239, 71, 81 and 305, would shift slightly. Students already in the school are not affected, and students with an older sibling attending a rezoned school will be given preference to keep the family together.

But generally, the parents who attended the meeting voiced their displeasure with the proposal.

“Kids should not have to cross a busy block to go to school,” said Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association. “Don’t split up a community just because Portfolio says you have to.”

Under the proposal, many kids who could have walked a few blocks to nearby PS 88 would now have to walk over 10 blocks to PS 91. Along the way, they would have to cross busy streets like Central Avenue.

Patricia Crowley, a member of Community Board 5’s Education Committee, agreed rezoning would destroy close-knit communities. “It’s wrong to come into a neighborhood and split it.” Patricia Crowley also argued parents were not given proper notice about the changes.

Portfolio officials at the meeting said they were following proper protocol, and the public meeting was designed to get community input. However, Marge Kolb, president of the District 24 Presidents’ Council asked why only one meeting was being held. All schools affected by the rezoning should have a public community meeting, Kolb said in a statement read by Jo Ann Berger at the meeting.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D- Middle Village) also joined parents protesting the proposal. “Far too many school zones are being affected. It’s hard for the community to really understand the impact of these changes,” she said.

Councilwoman Crowley and others pleaded for patience. Two additional schools, including one planned for the former Rite Aid site on Metropolitan Avenue, are scheduled to open within the next two years, and additional rezoning would have to occur.

“Why not zone PS/IS 119 as proposed and leave other schools’ zones intact for the next year to see what way things shake out?” said Kolb. “PS/IS 119 could also be used next year for overflow kindergarteners for a number of area schools while the impact of the Rite Aid school is worked out and demographic numbers are looked at more closely.”

Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24 (CEC 24), said reaching a compromise on rezoning might be better than rejecting the proposal outright. Comaianni said the DOE could simply cap kindergarten admission rates, and force stu- dents zoned for a school attend the school of the department’s choice.

CEC 24 will vote on the proposal at their next meeting on January 25 at 7 p.m. at IS 73, 70-02 54th Avenue, in Maspeth.

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