School Rezoning Plan Draws Fire
By Howard Schwach
The first draft of a rezoning plan proposed by District 27 staff for schools throughout Rockaway has drawn fire from school board members, residents and even school officials.
The plan, which was outlined by Marty Barr, a planning expert with the local school district at a meeting on Monday night at PS 104, called for students who live in the sprawling Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway to remain in the schools they now attend rather than attend the new school, PS 253, a school less than two blocks from their homes. The plan also called for a rezoning of the 400 Ocean Village children, who now attend PS 225 in Rockaway Beach to move back to their neighborhood schools – PS 105 and PS 42.
District 27 Operations Manager Sandy Brawer told the fifty people in attendance that rezoning would be a long process and that nothing in the plan presented that night would be set in stone.
"This will not happen overnight," Brawer said. "We will have a series of meetings to obtain community input. This is not a done deal."
Many in the audience and on the board took offense, however, when Barr put up a slide that showed Redfern children remaining in their present schools – PS 104 and PS 197 rather than the newly-constructed school.
"Barr said that the kids in Redfern are low performing and the district does not want them in the new school," said David Hooks, a school board member who was at the meeting. "He said that they would have a negative impact on the school."
"That’s what the man said," Hooks told The Wave, "but that don’t mean that it’s going to happen. That’s another story."
"We have to give the children the benefit of the doubt," he added. Just because they have not performed well in school before does not mean that they won’t do so in the future. I grew up in Redfern and I am personally insulted by the assumption being made about people in Redfern and in other low-performing areas."
Board President Steve Greenberg agrees with Hooks.
"I can’t understand why we were given a plan by the district that would keep Redfern kids in their present schools," Greenberg said. "They are only a block or two from the new school. I can understand that the district is worried about their level of performance, but it seems to me you can address that problem better if they are all in one building rather than being split among three buildings."
"I really want to keep those kids off the buses," he added.
Greenberg said that he was most bothered by the Redfern proposal, but that the plan had some merit.
"The plan to move the Ocean Village students who now go to PS 225 back to their neighborhood schools – PS 105 and PS 42 – is a good one. It will save the kids a couple of hours each day on the bus and it makes sense. It will also relieve some of the overcrowding at PS 225, because it would reduce the school population by about 40 percent," Greenberg told The Wave.
Greenberg also said that it would do away with the need to move the PS 114 zone east from Beach 121 Street to Beach 116 Street, something that has been on some people’s agenda for many years. Greenberg does not favor the plan.
Board member Jim Adams is the chair of the Rezoning Committee. He says that he plans three more public meetings before a final rezoning plan is submitted sometime in March.
The final plan, he says, will rely on many factors – community input, district needs, the location of new homes.
"That is really one of our problems," Adams says. "We don’t know exactly where or when the new homes are going to be constructed nor how many kids are going to be living in those homes. It is hard to plan with such massive construction going on and with so little information being presented."
"We are going to have to make assumptions," Greenberg added. "We have to get as close to an accurate count as we can."