2011-07-08 / Top Stories

Move To Delete Zoned Middle Schools

By Howard Schwach

Parents at Belle Harbor’s PS 114 are contemplating a lawsuit against the Department of Education should it change the middle school admission process to cut out local students. Parents at Belle Harbor’s PS 114 are contemplating a lawsuit against the Department of Education should it change the middle school admission process to cut out local students. If the Department of Education has its way, zoned middle schools may well go the way of zoned high schools and disappear from the educational scene.

DOE sources say that plans are underway to redraw the city’s middle school application process, and that has many local parents up in arms, with some parents at PS 114 in Belle Harbor even contemplating a lawsuit to insure that their elementary school students have access to its middle school program when the time comes.

“We are willing to pay the home prices and the taxes we pay because of our local zoned school and the excellent job that it does. If our kids no longer have absolute access to our zoned school, then that will destabilize the neighborhood and force people to move to where they do have access to a good school,” one parent, who asked not to be identified, said in an email. “It is not at all clear to me why having kids in their own zoned school is seen as a negative by the DOE.”

One local realtor, whose children graduated from PS 114, said that homes in the area zoned for PS 114 are typically worth at least $50,000 more than the houses across the street, which are zoned for PS 225, a “failing school,” according to DOE statistics.

The DOE has two plans on the table, called Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A calls for applications from all students moving from the fifth grade to middle school.

While neighborhood students would “get preference” in their zoned school, if too many students citywide apply to the school, then a lottery format would be used to see who would get in and who would not.

It is possible under Plan A for many students from other parts of the city to gain entrance to a school such as MS 114 while neighborhood students would not, school officials say.

The DOE says on its website that a negative to Plan A is that few out-ofzone students could win entrance if too many locals apply for the school and are given a preference.

Many local parents do not see that as a negative.

Plan B is even more radical, parents say, eliminating zoned schools entirely and using a lottery for anybody who applies for the school, with no preference for local students.

Community Education Council 27, the parent board that covers Rockaway schools, passed a resolution on middle schools on July 11.

That resolution calls on the DOE to give priority in middle school placement to zoned students while allowing them to apply to other schools should they and their parents desire to do so.

CEC 27 would mandate student preference as “the key determination to admission.”

Parent response at PS 114 to the Department of Education proposals has beem swift and angry.

On the last day of school, parents gathered to discuss the plans and many were angred by the possibility that their children might not find seats at the favored school when they completed elementary school.

Some talked of a lawsuit to fight the plan, others about selling their homes and moving to Nassau County should the rule be put in place.

The school’s parent association called an “emergency meeting” to discuss the problem and asked the community education council to put off approving any plan for middle school placement until it could meet and have its say.

“We really feel that this initiative is being pushed through,” a PA official said.

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