<br />Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers Carol Newell testified at a public hearing about how the school's building will be used next year about the need for more social services to help students. (Photo: Aisha Asif)
The massive auditorium at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers was nearly empty Thursday night when District 2 Superintendent Marisol Bradbury read aloud the Department of Education's proposal to open a new high school in the lower Manhattan building.
The new school would work with the National Parks Service to offer career training in carpentry, masonry, landscaping, and restoration, Bradbury explained to the handful of adults in the audience. It would open in September with a ninth grade and expand to as many as 500 students over three years, according to the department's proposal.
At the same time as the new school grows, Murry Bergtraum would lose students. By 2018, the school would have around 450 fewer students than the 1,806 who currently attend.
The proposal would mean a jarring new change for a once-venerable high school whose reputation and performance have plummeted in recent years. But where educators and students at other schools being asked to share space have made concerted efforts to hold on to their classrooms, few at Murry Bergtraum attended the city's public hearing to comment on the plans.
The sparse attendance at the hearing did not surprise social studies teacher and teachers union chapter leader John Elfrank-Dana, who was not at the hearing himself. “We don’t have any community here,” he said. “When you send high-needs kids across town to school, you don’t have a community.”
Rezoning plan for Lower Manhattan
District 2's Community Education Council is facing a catch-22: Approve the three rezoning plans presented by the Department of Education last night, with all of their wrinkles, or risk missing a chance to solve crowding problems this year.
After parents criticized a first draft of the plans last month, department officials brought new rezoning maps – one for the Upper East Side, one for the West Village/Chelsea, and one for Lower Manhattan – to the council's meeting last night. The plans, which council members had not seen before the meeting, address some problems but introduce others, according to Shino Tanikawa, the council's president.
The Upper East Side plan was minimally altered, while the West Village/Chelsea plan had significant changes. P.S. 3 and P.S. 41, which currently share a single choice zone, will be split into two separate zones. Moreover, the P.S. 41 zone would include inside of it the future zone lines for the Foundling School, which is set to open in 2014.
The main point of contention involves the Lower Manhattan plan which would send some addresses currently zoned for Tribeca's P.S. 234 and others currently zoned for P.S. 397, the new Spruce Street School, to P.S. 1 in Chinatown, a far less affluent school with many immigrant students. Last summer, families on P.S. 234's waiting list resisted when they were offered places at another Chinatown school, P.S. 130.
Some parents said the change would damage the neighborhoods' sense of identity. But Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent and a co-chair of the school's overcrowding committee, said the bigger problem is that P.S. 1 could become overcrowded.
“The proposals are all just overcrowding the schools around us for an insignificant gain,” Joyce said. “Rezoning does not create seats and seats are what we need.”