School zoning proposal In Bensonhurst draws ire

With kindergarten enrollment for the 2012-2013 school yearstarting in two short months, the Department of Education (DOE) andSchool District 20 have unveiled their zoning proposals for thearea – the district is the second most crowded in the city — andbegun the public hearing process, during which parents andeducators voice their concerns or support.

This year, with multiple major rezonings being pursued -including the creation of a zone for currently non-zoned P.S. 748in order to relieve existing and anticipated overcrowding at nearbyP.S. 200 and P.S. 163 – the comments are flooding in.

I would like to express my displeasure at P.S. 748 being turnedinto a zoned school from an application school, said Monica Weiss,one of the many parents from P.S. 748 who spoke at the November 9meeting of Community Education Council 20. We’ve all chosen to beat P.S. 748. Overcrowding is not a new problem… How can I explainto my [younger] daughter that she can’t go to school with her older[sibling]? Will [my older one] not get the same quality educationas now?

We don’t want to be a zoned school [because] we want parentswho want to be there, not who are forced to be there, explainedmom Julie Leung.

P.S. 748, at Bay 14th Street and Benson Avenue, currentlyenrolls students in pre-K through second grade, all of whom areenrolled because their parents chose to apply to the school.

The new zone’s boundaries are split below and above 86th Street,stretching from Cropsey Avenue up to 83rd Street. Below 86thStreet, it would encompass the area between Bay 17th Street and19th Avenue. Above 86th Street, it would include the block between19th and 20th Avenues.

All incoming kindergarteners living in this new zone would berequired to go to P.S. 748 unless accepted into another school oftheir parents’ choice. The only exception would be for thosestudents who already have an older sibling in one of the other twoschools.

The DOE’s hope is that by reducing the size of P.S. 163 and P.S.200’s zoned areas, the flow of incoming kindergarteners will bestaunched and possibly abate.

According to Carrie Marlin of the DOE’s Office of PortfolioPlanning, the proposed zone change – which must be voted on by theCEC at its December meeting before going into effect in January -is intended only to relieve overcrowding at P.S. 200, which is at126 percent capacity, to allow P.S. 163 to expand on schedule, andto create steady, predictable enrollment patterns for P.S.748.

It is also intended as a benefit to local families who do notwant to or cannot afford to send their child to schools furtheraway from their homes, said CEC 20 President Laurie Windsor. As aparent, I totally empathize, but from a CEC perspective, we have tolook at all of the schools. We have to look at the whole picture,she stressed.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile also weighed in, contending thatthe system is not truthful and is pitting P.S. 748 and P.S. 200parents against each other.

To P.S. 200 mom Donna Salerno, though, the issue is not aboutschools and parents being pitted against one another becauseeverybody wants what’s best for their children and we’re notagainst them and they’re not against us.

I understand where P.S. 748 parents are coming from, but ourschool is so overcrowded. We’re full, she said. We don’t have anyempty classrooms. Last year we lost a pre-K class and had to cut aclassroom in half so that we could create another room…. It’s agreat school, great report cards and we’re doing great, butphysically, there’s no more space here.

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