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Budget, Education & City Services

School Capacity issues in Community Board Five

WHEREAS, The rapid and continued increase in residential development within Community Board 5 (CB5) has had a severe impact on the education of our children resulting in the overcrowding of nearly all public elementary and middle schools in School District 2, in which CB5 lies; and

WHEREAS, The February 2007 State of Residential Construction in CB5 (prepared by Gretchen Minneman) reveals that 5,002 new dwelling units have been approved for construction between 2000 and 2007; and

WHEREAS, It is estimated that these new dwelling units would yield approximately 500 elementary school aged plus 100 middle school aged children, for a total of 600 new children within CB5 (this calculation is based on a formula supplied by the Manhattan Borough President's office based on Board of Education and Department of City Planning reports, May 2001); and

WHEREAS, The average number of students currently enrolled in the public schools serving CB5 is approximately 500 students; and

WHEREAS, In terms of location within the district, 60% or 2,934 of these dwelling units will be built between 34th and 23rd Streets, which is in the center of our district; and

WHEREAS, The Manhattan Borough President's office ranks CB5 the third highest district in terms of number of dwelling units to be developed in Manhattan (CB4 ranks #1 and CB1 ranks #2); and

WHEREAS, Chancellor Klein has reported a 24.7% increase in student population growth in School District 2 between 2004-2014, and the DOE also predicts a growing student population within CB5, and

WHEREAS, A recent study supplied by CEC2 reveals that the schools serving CB5 have had massive student population increases in 2007 versus 2006 which have driven school capacity levels to substantially over 100% (see attachment); and

WHEREAS, The School Construction Authority (SCA), the agency responsible for determining where schools are built, has gone on record stating that 85% capacity is technically a full capacity school because this figure enables the existence of art classes, science labs and gymnasiums which would otherwise be used as classrooms in overcrowded schools; and

WHEREAS, The SCA has a capital budget that includes funding for the building of new schools within School District 2.  However, School District 2 covers a vast area of Manhattan, i.e. all of Downtown, Midtown and the entire Upper East Side (see map attached); and

WHEREAS, The SCA does not necessarily look at the specific of school catchment districts.  Thus, it is unclear in which part of School District 2 those funds will be used; and

WHEREAS, There is not a single public elementary nor middle school within the Community Board Five district boundaries; and

WHEREAS, Another issue is that the SCA and Department of Education (DOE) have relied on enrollment projections supplied by the Grier Report, which were found to be inaccurate because they do not count new residential development in a meaningful way; and

WHEREAS, There is a New York State mandated class size plan.  The City of New York, for example, recently agreed to reduce class size of grades K-3 to 20 students; and

WHEREAS, There is increasing awareness of and organizing around the issue of overcrowded schools.  CB5 commends the Manhattan Borough President's Task Force on School Overcrowding, recently established to bring together parents, teachers, Community Boards, Community Education Councils and elected officials to develop recommended solutions to this crucial issue; and

WHEREAS, CB5 applauds the efforts of vocal parent communities in other Community Boards for their success in mobilizing the DOE and SCA to negotiate with developers to build schools in new residential projects.  Key examples:

WHEREAS, The assumption that new residents of luxury units will send their children to private versus public schools is a false one.  The Huffington Post recently reported that there is a lack of excess capacity in private schools nationwide.  In Manhattan, private school applications have increased dramatically and there are no plans in place to keep up with the demand; and

WHEREAS, It is of utmost priority to address the growing population of children and ensure there are adequate facilities to educate them before the situation worsens, and it is largely the role of the Community Boards to be proactive and focus on the development of new schools within the district; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That CB5 strongly supports the Manhattan Borough President's Task Force on School Overcrowding, and be it further

RESOLVED, That CB5 urges the DOE and SCA to create schools and identify new seats for the growing number of students coming into our district, and be it further

RESOLVED, That CB5 urges the DOE and SCA to create new public elementary and middle schools within the geographic boundaries of CB5, and be it further

RESOLVED, That CB5 recognizes that the absence of seats for the expected influx of students is one of the most serious issues facing our community and will use the resources of the Board, including the Land Use & Zoning and Landmarks committees, to identify potential sites for schools.

The above resolution passed by a vote of   27 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstention.

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