By Ava Stryker-Robbins
A rally last week at P.S. 145 — The Bloomingdale School — commemorating the first anniversary of the Ukraine war and celebrating the refugees and asylum seekers from Europe, West Asia, South America, and Central America who currently make up 20% of the student population, also shone a light on the overcrowding issues the school currently faces.
City Council Members Gale Brewer and Shaun Abreu joined P.S. 145 teachers, parents, children, and members of the New York City Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), in addressing students and parents, who held homemade blue-and-yellow signs and flags.
P.S. 145, located at 150 West 105th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, is a natural environment for Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers due to, both, its welcoming community and Russian and Spanish dual-language programs. Refugees who attend can learn, including English, without a language barrier holding them back.
According to Naveed Hasan, a member of PEP and P.S. 145 parent, around 80 students in the school are asylum seekers from South and Central America, and around 50 are from Russian-speaking nations, with 15 of those coming directly from Ukraine. Other students come from an astounding range of countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Transnistria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
“This school is a place that embodies the spirit of New York City,” Councilmember Brewer proclaimed. “You welcome everyone who is in need….What a great example you’re setting for the rest of the world.”
The rally also honored volunteers who have been supporting P.S.145’s families. Anna Azvolinsky, a parent and active community member, said in an email to WSR, “the work the community has been putting in at this Title 1 school has been extraordinary.” [A Title 1 school is one in which children from low-income families make up at least 40 percent of enrollment.] “P.S. 145’s principal, teachers, staff, and parent volunteers are a fantastic example of what a New York City public school should be—inclusive, inviting, and caring.”
While the school welcomes new students, it also faces severe concerns about space. According to Lauren Balaban, PTA co-vice president of fundraising, there are currently 525 students enrolled at the school. According to the 2021-2022 Enrollment, Capacity, & Utilization Report from the DOE, the target capacity at P.S. 145 is 438 students. Balaban says that the school does not want to turn anyone away, but acknowledges that “we’re busting at the seams.”
Parents at P.S. 145 have been asking for more space since September 2022. Along with the PTA, they sent a petition signed by over 200 parents and guardians to School Superintendent Kamar Samuels on February 15, begging for more space.
“The DOE has negatively impacted our school community’s ability to help refugee families,” Balaban said, “but also all of the kids at P.S. 145, by not granting us what we need: a dedicated building with a library and counseling, music, and science rooms. These are not luxuries, but necessities for children in public schools.”
Brewer, Abreu, and the vice chair of PEP, Gregory Faulker, said they are committed to advocating for more space for the school, but it is all a matter of funding. After the rally, Brewer told WSR there are available spaces right near P.S. 145, but the DOE needs to invest more money in the school in order for it to expand.
Hasan said additional space could also be used to possibly split the lower and upper grades between different buildings. “School space is available right next door and very close by: the Romemu Center (176 W. 105th Street) and Ascension School (220 W. 108th Street) will have open academic-configuration square footage in the coming season. Currently, Beit Rabban [a Jewish day school] uses the classrooms in Romemu, and they’re not renewing for next year. Ascension is closing down permanently this year. The entire school building will be available.”
“Every new immigrant who comes to the society will bring more than they will receive,” said P.S. 145 PTA co-president Mashura Akilova during the rally. “We remain committed to providing the best safe place for the kids and also the best education.”
“Come any time to visit P.S. 145 and see for yourself the amazing work we’re doing as a community!” Hasan wrote. “We are happy to show off the wonderful people and school as a whole.”
With so many people from all over the world,
I don’t want to be anywhere else than our neighborhood. I hope we can accommodate and be enriched by the new arrivals.
I’m not sure families with school-age children are as ecstatic.
No doubt the refugee kids have to go to school. But 20% of the entire school population? It is not just space issue, it is funding as well. It is not coming from federal emergency funds. Local families will leave, they don’t need to be taxed and have all these funds funnelled towards multiple initiatives except the ones that benefit their own families and children.
Dana, this is false.
States receive Title I, Part C funding for migratory children.
To say that NYC schools are facing an unfunded mandate is a distortion.
Please re-read. I said federal funds.
I read it.
You said there were no “federal emergency funds” – which is false. NYS will receive enhanced federal funding via Title 1, Part C to support migrant student enrollment.
Did NYS receive such funds from federal government? That was my point, WSR didn’t publish my reply.
To be eligible is one thing, to actually receive such funds and the amount of them is another.
As far as I am aware, school funding is a battle and schools are struggling, migrant children or not. Also it is mentioned in the article.
“ You welcome everyone who is in need….”. Except for local tax-payers! Our children are on waiting lists for local schools yet we managed to accommodate hundreds of others very quickly. Basically we have money to pay for other people’s children but not our own.
There should be a priority given to local property tax payers.
This is not equity and inclusion.
This is exclusion .
It certainly makes people feel good who grant these services, but the people who pay for them are not getting their fair share.
True about waiting lists. My child was on the waiting list for a zoned school for a year. We moved to the building several years before he was even born.
Nothing but a photo op for Gale Brewer.
We have migrant crisis, homeless crisis, public education is a joke, but we are “celebrating” .
Sure, put more pictures of Ukrainian flags to deflect from dire issues NYC is facing.
Waving flags from war-torn Syria won’t be that effective even though the war there has been going on much longer. I do feel for the people of Ukraine, but I want people to remember other suffering nations who deserve as much help and attention.
“ Every new immigrant who comes to the society will bring more than they will receive,”
Every new immigrant will do that? Based on what study? In whose experience? I’m not saying we shouldn’t help them but to claim that each and every new immigrant will bring something back to the society, not to mention more, is an empty platitude.
In the past, new immigrants had to take any job they could find in order to survive. They definitely gave a lot to this country. Not the new kind though, housed in hotels and given cell phones. They don’t need to look for a job unlike the rest of us. Yet they are celebrated.
^ if you’re a refugee or migrant reading this, please know not all UWSers share these ignorant views.
“My ancestor immigrants were fine, but the new kind are lazy parasites” is the oldest xenophobic nonsense in the book.
I’m speaking for myself, first generation immigrant. Came here 30 years ago and worked all possible jobs. Same as immigrants who came here around that time.
We had to work to make sure we have a roof over our heads. It is no longer the scenario.
Please don’t assume and label.
Great, I’m glad you had the opportunity to immigrate and make a life for yourself here, the same opportunity now sought by the new arrivals you criticize.
Do you seriously not see the irony in you telling me “don’t assume and label” while you simultaneously write off whole groups of people as shiftless spongers?
You have to stop twisting what I said. I did NOT call anyone shiftless spongers to start with. I did say that the article statement that every immigrant brings more than it receives is untrue. And you know that. Not every. Especially now when people are unmotivated to get a job.
So just stop your inflammatory commentary and face the reality.
PS 145 also serves children living in the Regent family shelter
Sorry, local tax-paying citizens who want quality public education for their children. Whatever is going on here is apparently more important.
Thanks for this piece – shows both the effort being made annd the many resources on the one hand, but the huge challenges facing schools and families . I hope the additional space works out.
New York City is renting 9000 Hotel rooms per day, Strictly for Illegal immigrants, That is well over 1 million dollars per day, just in hotels. Not including food medical education, ect. This doesn’t include the Hotels rented for New York City homeless. Our elected officials are disregarding US laws, and sticking us with the bill
Ah yes! Good ol’ Upper West Side NIMBY-ism: scholastic version
You forget, some of us think “NIMBY” concepts are just common sense and are not offended by your name calling
Gale Brewer stamp of approval has already a “Trump effect” on a local level; similarly to everything Trump endorsed becoming a questionable tainted matter that is rejected by many purely by association.
Chasing dark stores, commissioning new homeless shelters, advocating background check ban, literally everything she is involved is not good for the community.
Now I question every initiative Gale Brewer is involved in or an event she shows up at.
Funny, that’s how I started feeling about her priorities too. I feel she is out there to score a political goal that will somehow negatively impact our district.
Cheerleading aside, the school doesn’t distract from the reality that education, based upon scholastic achievement in NYC public schools is abysmal. The teacher’s union is happy for the influx of immigrant children , while motivated and concerned parents who can continue to flee the public schools. Unfortunately for many parents there is no alternative to the public schools.
God bless their hearts! Welcome to the neighborhood! We should embrace everyone of them all welcome even more. Keep them coming. I for one would encourage our city and state to raise our taxes to pay for the schooling and services that these beautiful people need and deserve! As my grandmother used to say . . .”there’s always room at our table. We can add water to the soup to feed you all.”
how about just your taxes
We are all obligated to do our part and pay our share. We should be thankful we have the means to help those who deserve it. Most of us can trace our families back to immigrants who also counted on the kindness of others.
At some point you’re going to run out of soup. You can’t live on water alone.