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 firstname.lastname@example.org.