After controversy, Santa pays visit to Sunset school

Santa Claus came to town, after all!

After days of worry that Santa Claus images and costumes would be banned from Sunset Park’s P.S. 169, 4305 Seventh Avenue, the school was free to welcome the “right jolly old elf” after the New York City Department of Education (DOE) determined that the ban was a misinterpretation of guidelines it had previously set.

That misunderstanding was officially put to rest on Wednesday, December 23, as Assemblymember Felix Ortiz continued his annual tradition of dressing as Saint Nick to visit all of the school’s students.

“I was delighted to return to P.S. 169 today as Santa Claus to bring cheer and holiday greetings to the students and parents, and to let everyone know that we can still enjoy the holidays together, including people from all backgrounds,” Ortiz said in a statement. “I look forward to coming back for many more years in the future.”

Earlier in the month, parents and students were saddened at the prospect of not having Santa visit them. “It was our kids’ imagination that has been expanding, but when you take Santa away, you’re basically limiting their imagination,” said P.S. 169 PTA President Mimi Ferrer.

The school’s principal Eujin Jaela Kim — who had initially informed staffers of the ban — wrote in a letter to P.S. 169 staff, “that the DOE has recently clarified the guidelines for the holidays. Santa Claus is considered a secular figure and is allowed to be displayed.” The letter was posted by local group Concerned Parents of Sunset Park on its Facebook page. “I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

Also, Ortiz told this paper during the Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) holiday party on Wednesday, December 16 that all the issues had been resolved. “This is clearly a misunderstanding on how to execute and understand the policy,” he said. “As we all know, Santa Claus is secular. He’s not a religious item. We are very happy to say that Santa Claus will be coming back.”

Ortiz expressed his excitement for being able to continue visiting the children of Sunset dressed as St. Nick. “I’m very excited to be Santa every year. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I always feel very proud when I see kids coming to me and asking Santa to bring me stuff,” he said. “It’s also very touching when kids ask to bring their father back from war or take care of my mom because she’s sick.”

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