Now, finally, interest in the school is returning. Parents have seen what else is available, and are remembering the glass building on the water with the huge enclosed yard, and the cafeteria with that view, and the new school library. What the modern building and spacious layout of the school offer is a rarity in the City, let alone the school’s programming.
Despite the problems for many families caused by the sudden demand for seats (story, page 1), this refocusing is still wonderful news. All Islanders need to see PS/IS 217 as their own – as a community asset to be proud of, whether you send your kids there or not, whether you have kids or not. It should not be left to the PTA to fight for more space in pre-K, more money for equipment and teacher training, or more Gifted & Talented classes. Lifting up the school helps to unify and lift up our community.
PS/IS 217 sits at the center of our Island in more than just a geographic sense.
The recent fight over the closing of the Island’s post office seems analogous. Many of us, perhaps even most of us, don’t use the post office more than a couple of times a year. Still, its existence represents something else to us, something much more worth fighting for. It’s more than just 10044 as a spot on the map – it indicates that a true community of people is living on this rock.
And, unlike with a post office, we have some ability to make our school great. A great school leads to a more connected and more secure community. It improves community health.
A school, especially a public school, is also a community anchor. It’s not open just from 9:00 to 3:00. There is an after-school provided by the BEACON program for first graders and older, even if they don’t attend 217. BEACON provides programming for adults, too, such as yoga and basketball. In fact, the school is open most nights until 8:00 or 9:00 for one reason or another, providing some kind of service to the community. And there are parties and movie nights and book sales sponsored by the PTA that are open to the entire community. And the community votes at the school.
The community stood behind PS/IS 217 and collaborated in organizing and getting funding for the school’s “green roof” initiative. But there are more battles to be fought. The response has been lacking from our elected officials over the space crunch for the upcoming school year. And we are still waiting for our “adoption” by Cornell Tech to be finalized and clarified, despite ongoing pressure from the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition and others.
We need the community to continue to devote itself to our children and to our Island through support of our community school.