Proposal to Merge 2 Schools and Truncate PS 165 Has Parents on Edge

PS 165 on 109th Street would be one of the schools impacted by a new city plan to merge and truncate local schools.

By Alex Israel

“Consider that our kids are at stake,” pleaded a concerned parent during a Community Education Council District 3 meeting to discuss the upcoming Department of Education proposals for a consolidation of PS 185 and PS 208 and a grade truncation of PS 165.

If approved, the potential change for PS 185 on 112th Street and PS 208 on 111th would involve the merging of the two schools, which are currently co-located on a public school campus, with PS 185 currently serving grades PreK-2 and PS 208 currently serving grades 3-5. This consolidation would allow all the teachers to remain in the same building, eliminating an extra transition point after 2nd grade, and providing a continuous elementary school education. While both changes are significant, the change to PS 165 on 109th Street is a bit more nuanced. A slide deck explaining the city’s reasoning is posted here.

The proposed change for PS 165 would involve truncating it from a PreK-8th grade program to a PreK-5th grade elementary school. The current 8th grade students would graduate out, and current 6th and 7th grade students would be assisted in finding seats at the middle school of their choice (where seats are available) through a truncation application process, assisted by the District 3 Superintendent Ilene Altschul and the Family Welcome Center. According to Altschul, the affected students from PS 165 “will have priority” over the standard pool of transfer students, as the protocols are separate.

PS 165 currently co-locates its building with Mott Hall II (MS 862), a 6th-8th grade middle school willing to accommodate the displaced incoming 7th and 8th graders should they choose to enroll. Mott Hall II Principal Marlon Lowe expressed his administration’s approval for the DOE’s proposal. “I believe in the capacity of my team,” he said, adding “we are positioning ourselves to absorb a community.” PS 165 Principal Aracelis Castellano Folk committed to collaborating with Mott Hall II “to work together to support both schools,” emphasizing “the children must feel welcome” at any school they choose to go to.

Reactions were mixed, with PS 165 and Mott Hall II parents speaking out to share concerns with the lack of detail provided on the DOE’s proposed support and resources for the transition. “Please don’t break what’s not broken,” said Alex Atkin, a Mott Hall II parent, who said she was open to expanding the school, but wanted it “done right.” Heather Lautner, a PS 165 parent spoke up “in favor of the truncation” as she believed it “would serve the community well” by bringing in additional financial resources from the DOE due to the increase in children.

A number of parents expressed frustration on behalf of their children, who would have to deal with a tough transition for just a year or two of education before having to switch again for high school. One of PS 165’s current sixth grade students took the floor to voice his distress at the potential closing of grades 6-8. “That’s not really good news in my point of view,” he said, “it’s heartbreaking. I worked so hard. I always wanted to go to this middle school since kindergarten.”

According to Superintendent Altschul, the formal proposal for the truncation of PS 165 will be posted on November 30. The formal proposal for the consolidation of PS 185 and PS 208 will come soon after, following a PS 208 community meeting on November 30 at 3:30 p.m. Between 30-45 days after the proposals have been posted, a joint public hearing will be scheduled, and all public comments will be collected and analyzed. Taking into consideration the public response, the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on both proposals on January 24, 2018, with the changes intended to take effect for the Fall 2018 school year.

CEC3 President Kim Watkins shared that she and the committee were “disheartened by the timing of this transaction,” and encouraged concerned parents to continue speaking out in the public meetings to follow.

People who have comments on these plans can email

NEWS, SCHOOLS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. Peter says:

      I cannot weigh in on the merits of the consolidation of 2 schools and the consolidation of another without more facts.

      What is appalling to me is that the DOE will present its formal “proposal” today and then it will be voted on at the PEP’s meeting on January 24th. When do the affected communities get to have hearings and meetings to discuss how their children’s lives and education are going to be impacted, particularly with the holidays in between. The parents in the southern portion of the district had months of meetings and hearings when the rezoning was being considered (not say that over a year’s worth of meetings are the right answer either).

      Seems to me this is nothing more than an attempt on the DOE’s part to ram this through without much community feedback.

      • Ye Olde Teachere says:

        Oh, my goodness!

        Do you mean that the DoE is a bureaucratic juggernaut that cares not a hoot about parents, teachers, and even kids and will pretend its getting parental feedback until it goes ahead with what it always wanted in the first place!? 😱

        Like Captain Renault, we too are “shocked, shocked!”

    2. Dom Minasi says:

      does that mean instead of have 30 kids per class you’ll have 40? Aren’t the teachers already overwhelmed…what we need is more schools with small size classes..

    3. Trying not to look for ulterior motives says:

      I totally agree with Peter re timing issues. I am having a lot of trouble comprehending why so many things which involve the DOE seem to move at the pace of a snail stuck in molasses, whereas this is getting voted on in the space of 6 weeks, not counting vacation…to take effect in less than a year?? What am I not seeing here?

      • Peter says:

        Unlike the zoning that took place last year, these proposals do not require the vote of CEC3. So, I suspect the DOE has wanted to do this for some time and has found the perfect time to get it done. How much organized resistance can a community put up in a 6 week period, particularly when you don’t have to get the vote of the CEC…..

    4. Eric says:

      After reading and observing the heated debates about school governance over the last several years it seems that there is only one solution … eliminate the DOE entirely and do not allow any changes in any district until every last parent has voted on every issue and there is unanimous agreement on every change.

      The CEC system was NEVER supposed to function as a micromanagement system of schools by localities. That ideology was what made the decentralization of our public school system such a disaster.

      Let’s face it. It is the nature of diverse communities that there will never be 100% consensus on issues which affect individual families in such a deep and personal way as the education of our children. That’s what the DOE is for, to do the thankless job of making policy and forcing compromise. It’s one thing to have a CEC to serve as a line of communication to the DOE and quite another to force every DOE decision to be run a gantlet before it can be implemented.