Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rezoning Manhattan Kids to Roosevelt Island’s PS 217 ?

According to an article in today’s New York Sun (see above image) the BOE is considering a plan to rezone children from overcrowded Manhattan schools to schools considered under utilized including Roosevelt Island’s PS 217 and PS 47 The School for the Deaf on 23rd Street. Just to let those Upper East Side Manhattan parent’s know a secret, PS 217 is part of Manhattan’s District 2. It is that fact that allows a number of Roosevelt Island school age children to attend public school in Manhattan.

It would be ironic if the BOE did rezone East Side kids to PS 217 as currently there are Queens kids bussed into PS 217 as space is available for kids to attend. I believe the kids being bussed in are also attending based on the “No Child Left Behind Program” and their local zoned schools are not meeting their educational needs.

At the same time, some Roosevelt Island kids that may have attended PS 217 for Kindergarten and into First Grade are pulled out by parents looking for schools with better average grades than PS 217 as well as due to fears of alleged disciplinary problems in the upper grades. The school is a K through 8 school.

As quoted in the NY Sun article, Mary Silver, a member of the District 2 community education council “described the response of parents as "emotional."”:

"Frankly, telling a kindergarten parent that you're going to ship their kid to Roosevelt Island is not going to help you make friends and influence people," Ms. Silver said. "Why don't you send them to Princeton? It's crazy."

Well Ms. Silver I can tell you the issue of PS 217 is an emotional issue for parents of school age kids on Roosevelt Island not just parents concerned about a possible rezoning plan which will probably never come to pass. I have met several groups of parents who over the years tried to organize groups of parents to band together and send their kids into PS 217 but many break down and send their kids off island for wanting a better school and not willing to invest the time, and energy into what they see as not a sure thing.

Overall the issue of PS 217 is a shame and has a history of bad politics, missed opportunities, and plain old misinformation. I don’t even know all the facts as I have heard PS 217 at one time was one of the top schools in NYC not just District 2. The crazy thing is the grades are supposedly improving and the teachers and administration at the school are known to deeply care about the kids and their school.

It is a great building and a shame more island kids dont attend school in it. For disclosure purposes I will admit my own kids attend different District 2 public schools in Manhatan.

Getting back to the rezoning plan, I doubt if it will ever happen. And if it did happen forcing the Queens kids to be pushed back into their old school districts watch out as then you’ll really have people screaming.


  1. Yep. When I went there in the early 80's we were consistently in the top ten schools in the city.

  2. I assume your kids are not in elementary or middle school anymore? If they are I do not understand how you can say that it is "a shame more island kids don't attend the school" while you enrolled your own children somewhere else.

    Btw, I know a few more moms and dads who keep telling me that PS 217 is actually a good school and I should really consider it for my children but on the other hand their kids go to other schools (public schools in D2 or private schools).

  3. My son started public school off island before we moved here two years ago. And my daughter followed him into the same school. I admit we were parents that had concerns and as such my son continued off the island.

  4. My child attends 217. Attempts to talk to staff about ANY issues have resulted in defensive, aggressive responses, and a failure to address my concern. They hide behind the mantra 'the board of education policy...' to avoid dealing with any situation you bring up; it neatly absolves them of any effort at thought, responsibility or creativity. Many times, it appears the effort is made to make the PARENT feel at fault for the topic at hand!

    I expected more.

    I am anonymous because my child doesn't need a tag of "troublemaker parent" to follow her from grade to grade!

  5. Fair enough. Switching schools is rarely a good thing for the kids.

  6. One of the reasons we moved here in 1976 was that our 6 year old child could attend an excellent public school. For R.I. pioneers, that was typical and yes, the school was in the top rank for several years. The first principal was a woman who had previously been the principal of P.S. 6, considered the best elementary school in Manhattan at the time. Unfortunately, she had a serious accident that forced an early retirement.

    At the time, the school was divided into mini-schools among the various buildings, utilizing an open plan that was in vogue at the time and that created learning difficulties for many children who might have done better in a quieter, more traditional environment. I certainly would have preferred the current P.S. 217building for my child.

    I agree completely that the school would be better if more residents sent their children to it. The involvement of parents is critical to the success of any school.