Feb. 22, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The Department of Education’s highly controversial plan to send some incoming kindergarteners from the crowded PS78 to a school in Woodside has been completely scrapped, with the new school site planned much closer to Hunters Point.
The new school site being offered to some incoming kindergarteners will be at 27-35 Jackson Ave., about one mile away from PS78 on Center Boulevard, according to Deborah Alexander, co-president of the Community Education Council for District 30.
The site, which is also in use as a Pre-K center, will take in some kindergarteners applying to PS78 for the 2018-2019 school year due to chronic overcrowding at the Hunters Point school. It will also act as the incubation site for P.S.375, the elementary school slated to open in 2021 on 57th Avenue.
The selected kindergarteners will attend the Jackson Avenue site for the next three years, and the site will continue to take in new students there every year. By September 2021, when P.S.375 is expected to open, all the students at the incubation site will move to the new school building.
Parents who have applied to have their children go to PS78 now have until Feb. 27 to go back to their application and add the Jackson Avenue location if they wish, Alexander said. The application process will first fill the roughly 100 kindergarten seats at PS78, based on criteria like whether a sibling is already at the site, and then move on to seating about 75 kindergarteners at the Jackson Avenue site.
In addition, a waitlist will be created for children selected to attend the Court Square location, which will move depending on PS78 seats opening up, Alexander said.
The Jackson Avenue location will only seat the overflow kindergarteners who applied to PS78, Alexander said. Beginning next year, however, the city will zone to school, where it will be open to all, but with priority for District 30 students.
The change comes after massive community backlash following the city’s initial proposal to quell overcrowding at PS78 by sending kindergarteners to an incubation site at St. Teresa’s in Woodside. The plans, first revealed last month, were met with a deluge of criticism and anger by school parents and local civic groups, culminating in a high-tension community meeting that centered on the city’s continued lack of comprehensive planning for Long Island City.
Elected officials, including Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, also rejected the DOE’s Woodside proposal, demanding that the city do better for LIC parents.
Yesterday, however, Nolan applauded the DOE’s revised plans. “The latest proposed plan from the NYC Department of Education office of enrollment seems to be a step in the right of direction, providing parents with additional location choices at the Court Square Jackson Ave Pre-K,” she said in a statement.
Kadie Black, board chair of the Gantry Parent Association, one of the many civic groups that fiercely pushed for the city to come up with a better plan for the neighborhood, said this is one of many steps in a longer process to address community needs.
“GPA is grateful to all the elected officials and decision makers that helped find this solution,” she said. “We were glad that GPA could facilitate bringing all the decision makers to the table.”
Black emphasized that the change could not have happened without the number of civic associations involved, like the Court Square Civic Association, LIC United, and the Hunters Point Civic Association.
“This was truly a united community effort,” she said. “We were organized. We were united. At the end, we were able to bring positive solutions.”
The Gantry Parent Association and other civic groups are still working to make sure that the temporary classroom units for Pre-K students at 49th Ave., a separate matter from the PS78 overcrowding dilemma, remain in place after the city revealed its intention to do away with them for the upcoming school year. The DOE is expected to announce its final plans for the TCUs in the coming week.