To the PTA:

As you must be aware by now, many of our children who are in pre-K did not get into PS 217. My granddaughter, for example, was assigned to a school in Manhattan that the district wasn’t even sure would open on time for the school year. Further, even though PS 217 was our first choice, she wasn’t even wait-listed here and the district further screwed up by not even offering any other choices. Thus, my daughter-in-law who is an adjunct professor at LaGuardia Community College, managed to get a seat for her in their faculty lab school in late August.

The problem with that assignment is:

1. There is a younger child who is in a stroller. Obviously he cannot be left at home nor go to a day-care facility elsewhere as the logistics just would not work.

2. There is no direct train so public transportation means the F train to Roosevelt Avenue, then a transfer to the Manhattan bound 7 train up 4 flights with elevators that don’t always work. The nearest stop is 33rd Street and Queens Boulevard. There is no elevator at that station. The walk to the college is 5 blocks which involves crossing Queens Boulevard (the Boulevard of Death) and Van Dam Street with 2 little kids.

3. There is no parking there so driving involves dropping them off in a no standing area. Thus, it takes 2 adults to drive them there and then bring the car back to Roosevelt Island, then doing the reverse in the afternoon to pick them up. Thus, I am spending almost 3 hours a day to transport her to and from school.

4. There was no provision for bus transportation for the Roosevelt Island kids who are assigned off the Island.

Of course we’ve applied for her to attend PS 217 for kindergarten and haven’t heard yet. She had better be accepted here or you can better believe there will be quite a stink about it. As for siblings in the school, both my son (her daddy) and my daughter attended PS 217 and, like you, both my late husband and I were involved with the PTA.

With that said, each tour of PS 217 has been scheduled for 8:45AM. How the heck can my daughter-in-law or any other parents whose kids have to go to pre-k off the Island make that hour when they are busy transporting their kids, or is that a way to get more kids from off the Island to come to PS 217? And please do not recite the story about how they come for the G&T program which makes PS 217 more desirable and better rated. I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid! With the increased population of Roosevelt Island, so many young families moving here, and so many kids of parents who are professionals, I do not believe that we don’t have enough kids here who are bright and able to make this school ranked among the best in the city, which it was by the way when we moved here and both of my kids went to PS 217. In fact, most of the kids in my daughter’s class got into the top high schools and many of them are now also professionals.

In the meantime, please schedule tours that are scheduled at times that are convenient for the parents who are not able to make that 8:45AM schedule.

Raye Schwartz

The PTA sent this letter in response.

Dear Raye:

Thank you for your feedback on tour times. However, most of the feedback from prospective families is that tours are best done during the school day when they are able to get a feel for the school with students and teachers present. For that reason most public and private school tours are during school hours, typically in the morning. However, the PTA and school administration recognize some parents prefer evening tours and we have offered an evening tour this year. I am sorry that you missed that particular tour. The PTA and school administration are currently discussing tours for April, and while we are hoping to offer an evening tour in April, we may not be able to make it happen.

It is important to note school tours are often exclusively run by the PTA, a group of volunteers. I am a parent volunteer and want the school to be as accessible as possible to prospective families, so I run tours as often as I am able. I am unable to run tours in the evening on a regular basis. My schedule does not allow for evening obligations beyond what our family already has scheduled. Teachers and administration arrive to school each morning by 7:30am, many after a long commute, so on days we offer evening tours the staff is putting in a 12+ hour day. We don’t ask them to stay late during the week if at all possible.

To address your concerns about placement, there has been only one year in the recent past where there has been a wait list for general education kindergarten at 217. Before the end of last summer, the DOE opened additional kindergarten seats at 217 and all zoned kids were placed. Unlike PreK, Kindergarten is compulsory and the DOE is obligated to offer you a seat and they want that seat to be in zoned schools. The PTA wants all of our zoned kids in our school. It makes for a stronger school and community.

The PTA and administration advocate for our Island community because we absolutely believe the strength and success of our school grows with each Islander who invests in the neighborhood school. We have worked very hard over the past two years to rally our community behind 217, and it’s working. People want to be at 217. That’s a good thing.

Please let me know if your granddaughter did indeed get a spot in 217’s incoming kindergarten class. We want to know if there is a wait list. We want to advocate for you. The school doesn’t know yet who has been offered a spot or if there is a waitlist. That information is yet to arrive from the DOE. While the administration and PTA can advocate, placement and the number of seats is ultimately up to the DOE.

Erin Olavesen, PS 217 PTA

Tags: Letters

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