Zoned out

Department of Ed will split district between PS 7 and enlarged PS 207


If the education department gets what it wants, the dynamic duo of P.S. 207 and P.S. 7 Milton Fein School will call it splits.

Community Education Council District 10 is considering a proposal that would split the zone that includes a good portion of Kingsbridge by the 2019-20 academic year. The move comes after P.S. 207 on Godwin Terrace expanded its grades from second grade to fifth, allowing the institution to serve a geographic zone on its own.

“It just eliminates the confusion and the back and forth,” said Marvin Shelton, the District 10 president.

But such a change, if approved by the school board, wouldn’t be dramatic. The new zoning would start for kindergarteners joining the school in September 2019. As they rise through the grades, so will the redistricting that will create a boundary splitting the zone into two regions, Shelton said.

“Over the next five or six years, you’ll see the full impact that everybody that is south of the line will now go to 207, and everybody north of that line will go to 7,” he said, noting later he’s unsure if it will be north and south.

“So it’s incremental.”

Before P.S. 207 expanded, parents in the neighborhood would typically keep their kids at the campus until after second grade before automatically transferring them to P.S. 7, less than a half-mile north on Kingsbridge Avenue. With P.S. 207 expanding, that transfer will no longer be necessary, likely alleviating overcrowding at P.S. 7.

“I think the only downfall was the way the line is split,” said Lasheanma Santiago, an English as a Second Language teacher at P.S. 207. “The distance from our schools are the same, but if I’m walking past one school to get to the other, as a parent, I’m not looking at the mile. I’m not going to calculate, ‘Oh it’s the same feet,’ you know? I’m going to say, ‘I already walked past one school, why am I walking down and around to go to another school?’”

Students are assigned to typical public schools based on their home address. Such zoning has created problems in some neighborhoods, especially with schools that suffer from bad reputations. Others have zones that can ultimately chop up demographics, essentially creating unintended segregated schools.

Many of those issues aren’t at play here, however, officials said. The demographics between the proposed P.S. 207 zone and the P.S. 7 ones are nearly the same.

The current proposal was designed not just to keep schools nearby, but also to diversify the schools as much as possible, Shelton said.

The education department first raised the idea of rezoning last March, kicking the conversation to District 10, which serves as an advisory body. Over the summer, education department officials analyzed data like enrollment trends, school capacity, and student residential and housing information.

District 10 has just 45 days to vote on the proposal, before it heads back to citywide education officials.

If the rezoning goes through, grandfather clauses should ensure parents won’t have to uproot children or split siblings already at a particular school.

“And we’re still going to have, ‘I got a kindergartner here and a fourth-grader here,’” Shelton said. “But as long as they’re registered with the same sibling, they’re in the same building.”

It’ll take a few years before all the kinks are worked out, but for both principals — P.S. 207’s Tara OBrien and P.S. 7’s Miosotis Ramos — they are both happy about the proposal.

“The zoning is helpful because it sets clear lines for parents,” OBrien said. “Before, parents didn’t know what to do, and (now) it just makes it more equal because it’s not just first-come, first-served. It’s really about your zone.”