Parents and community leaders in Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst were urged to attend one of two meetings to learn about proposals to redraw the boundaries for eight schools in District 30, starting in the 2011-2012 school year.
The Department of Education (DOE) plans to create a new zone to accommodate Public School 280, a school that opened this month on 94th Street and 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights in the old Blessed Sacrament School location. The school was opened to add seats and relieve overcrowding in Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst.
“We have a superb school,” said Community District Education Council 30 (CDEC30) member Jeffrey Guyton, who was at the meetings answering parents questions. “We know the new school is going to be excellent.”
The first meeting was held on Tuesday, September 28 at P.S. 228 in East Elmhurst. The second meeting was on Thursday, September 30 at the auditorium of P.S. 149 in Jackson Heights, where more than 100 parents showed up to find out how this rezoning will impact their children. Some of the schools that will be affected are P.S. 69, P.S. 92, P.S./I.S. 127, P.S. 148, P.S. 149, P.S. 212, P.S. 222 and P.S. 228.
“I think it is an excellent step for the Council to give parents a chance to ask questions and get responses,” said Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, who represents the area.
CDEC30 members explained that families with children entering kindergarten starting in September 2011 will be impacted by the zoning changes. If a parent already has a child in a zoned public school, they will not be moved to another school. Also, if a child is entering kindergarten and they already have a sibling attending an elementary school, the child can get into the same school as long there is enough room. However, children in a school zone will always have priority.
“The Council worked very hard to bring a new school to relieve the overcrowding problem,” Guyton said.
The newly-opened P.S. 280, which is still partially under construction, already has about 110 kindergarten students. Eventually, the school will have up to 470 students from grades K-5. The new school has a Dual Language (English-Spanish) program, which is very attractive to many parents.
“We are lucky that we are getting more seats in District 30,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who represents the area.
At the meeting, an issue raised was the possibility of pairing up the pre-K-2 P.S. 222 with P.S. 148 and the pre-K-2 P.S. 228 with P.S .149 so that when children graduate from the second grade, they are guaranteed a spot in their zoned elementary school.
“I am mad because they mislead us,” said Nuala O’Doherty, a mother of three elementary school children. “It is going to affect all the kids at P.S. 222 and P.S. 228.”
Other parents at the meeting, expressed concerns about the distance some kids would have to travel to get to and from school. Also, they talked about the hardship the proposed zoning changes would put on parents, who would need to travel to two separate schools to pick-up their children.
Others criticized the Council for giving out materials in English only and not in Spanish since half of the audience were Latinos, who only spoke Spanish.
“They are not presenting the information in a way that they can get parents involved,” said Alejandra Ruiz, education justice organizer for the non-profit immigrant organization Make the Road New York.
The proposed new zoning plan by the Department of Education’s Office of Portfolio Planning will be presented at the CDEC30 meeting on Thursday, October 21 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 148, located at 89-02 32nd Avenue in Jackson Heights.
Until then, CDEC30 members stressed that nothing is set in stone and that they will consider community feedback before finalizing a new zoning plan.
For more information, parents should call the CDEC30 at 718-391-8380, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit the office at 28-11 Queens Plaza North, Room 520, in Long Island City.
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