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Queens Chronicle

PS 49: Back to the old drawing board

CEC 24 flatly rejects city proposal to rezone Middle Village school

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Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:55 pm, Thu Dec 29, 2011.

A proposal to rezone IS/PS 49 in Middle Village has been kicked back to the Department of Education after being unanimously rejected on Tuesday by Community Education Council 24.

The proposal, which would have shrunk the school’s feeder district, now will be subject to talks between the CEC and the Department of Education’s Office of Portfolio Management, which crafted the proposed new district.

Students slated to start kindergarten at PS 49 next September still could find themselves going to other schools, depending on kindergarten enrollment, which begins in Jan. 9.

No one disputes that PS 49 is crowded, CEC President Nick Comaianni said.

“We want to have proper, rational rezoning that makes sense, and the numbers don’t make sense to us,” he said. “The one thing we’d like to do is keep negotiating.”

Drew Patterson from the Office of Portfolio Management said the plan was put forward because officials thought it was the best alternative to overcrowding at PS 49.

It would cap PS 49 kindergarten enrollment at 75, giving priority to students in the zone with siblings already in the school up to grade 5, followed by students in the zone with no siblings.

The overflow would go to PS 87 in Middle Village, the site of Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is not the only possible plan,” Comaianni said. “It’s the only one Portfolio has presented to us.”

The office originally suggested moving the overflow both to PS 58 in Maspeth and PS 87 in Middle Village, until PS 58 turned out to have more students than the city claimed.

PS 87, on the other hand, is undergoing expansion that will lend itself to more students in the future. Still, parents would like alternatives to rezoning.

Even with the Jan. 9 start of enrollment coming up fast, Comaianni said rezoning for September 2013 could take place as late as February should CEC 24 and the city reach a mutually agreeable resolution over the next few weeks.

Alicia Vaichunas, the PTA president at PS 49, said for next year there already are about 30 kindergarten-age students who have siblings in the school to give them Priority 1 status.

“That leaves 45 slots,” she said. “If you get 60 more applicants, how do you choose them in a fair way?”

“We’re going to camp out there for Jan. 9,” said parent Linda Schirling. But Patterson said that would not be necessary, given the selection process.

Up to 75 Priority 1 students could register on a first-come, first-served basis. Any slots left over after Priority 1 would be filled at random and the rest reassigned.

“If you have 75 seats, you can’t put 100 children in them,” he said.

Then there is the case of parent Mary Buckmaster, who will have a child in seventh grade at PS 49 when her second child begins kindergarten, two years beyond the fifth-grade sibling cutoff.

“I know that makes my child a Priority 2,” she said. “But are we at least a high Priority 2?”

Patterson and CEC 24 Vice President Peter Vercessi said the grade 5 cutoff is a city-wide chancellor’s regulation, rather than a policy, and therefore is cast in stone.

Comaianni said in the end that they do not want to split up neigborhoods, and that district residents are the best judges of the situation.

“We live here,” he said. “We can’t just sit back and take what the Department of Education gives us. What about next time? If we give in we could lose a whole neighborhood.”

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