South Harlem’s STEM Institute Saved By Public Support

school-harlemSouth Harlem’s PS 241 — also called the STEM Institute of Manhattan — will stay open despite a last-minute attempt by the city to dissolve the school. Proposals to both close the school, located on West 113th Street near 7th Avenue, and to rezone students to nearby public schools were withdrawn, the Department of Education (DOE) announced this week.

The plan was withdrawn due to strong opposition from PS 241 families, said DOE District 3 Superintendent Ilene Altschul.

“We deeply value community engagement and have decided to withdraw the consolidation based on feedback from families,” Altschul said in a statement. “Delivering high-quality instruction remains my top priority, and I will continue to listen to and work closely with the school communities to address concerns in the northern portion of the district.”

The DOE officially proposed shuttering PS 241 and consolidating the district during a Nov. 10 meeting of the Community Education Council (CEC) for District 3 — which spans the Upper West Side and South Harlem. The CEC, an appointed group of district parents, would have had to vote to approve rezoning the South Harlem schools.

The DOE largely attempted to pass its proposals at the last minute, without consulting the families of Harlem. Members of the public and the CEC compared rezoning discussions on the Upper West Side — which lasted nearly two years — with the South Harlem plan, which was unveiled just weeks before a scheduled vote.

The proposal would have moved current PS 241 students further uptown to PS 76 for the 2017-2018 school year. The PS 241 attendance zone for incoming students would have then been partitioned among PS 180, PS 76 and PS 185 and PS 208.

PS 241 is currently sited in what the DOE calls the M113 building, and shares the building with two charter schools. The building is over-capacity, whereas the rest of the South Harlem schools in the district are under-utilized, according to a DOE presentation. If the proposal passed, building utilization could have increase from 88 percent to as high as 96 percent at PS 76, from 86 percent to 92 percent at PS 180 and from 73 percent to 79 percent a PS 185 and 208, according to the DOE.

In an October letter to Schools Commissioner Carmen Fariña in which the CEC laid out zoning recommendations for the district, the council said it was “dismayed” by the plan to dissolve PS 241. In that letter the CEC said that the plan lacked community involvement and said the council feared that a charter school may take over the space vacated by PS 241.

Photo by Google Maps May 2016 and source.

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