Efforts to Diversify NYC Schools

M.S. 51 in Park Slope is one of the most selective middle schools in district 15. (Photo by Patrick Wall via Chalkbeat)

New plans to diversify schools that have been segregated in certain New York City neighborhoods are beginning to be implemented. Chalkbeat and The Villager report on the efforts undertaken thus far in two school districts, one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan.

In Brooklyn’s district 15, which includes Sunset Park, the Department of Education awarded a $120,000 contract earlier this year to WXY Studio, an urban planning and design firm, to assemble a working group of parents, educators and local advocates who would offer public input as to how to diversify and desegregate local schools, writes Christina Veiga in Chalkbeat.

While the local City Council member Brad Lander lauded efforts to diversify the district, Javier Salamanca, co-founder of Make Space for Quality Schools in Sunset Park, declined to join the working group. For Mexican and Chinese parents in the district, he said, other issues are more important than integration.

They are more worried about severe school overcrowding, which leads to packed classrooms and limited space for things like science labs, he said.

The working-group invitation felt more like an effort to create the appearance of diversity than a real attempt to listen to the parents in his community, Salamanca added.

“As one of the few grassroots groups organizing parent voices in Sunset Park,” he wrote in a statement posted on Facebook, “we choose not to be tokenized for the purposes of this initiative.”

In Manhattan’s district 1, meanwhile, plans are moving apace, writes Levar Alonzo in The Villager, as the Department of Education on Oct. 26 launched a new pilot program for the 2018-19 school year called Diversity in Admissions. A family resource center opened Oct. 2 at P.S. 15, at 333 E. Fourth St. to help parents navigate the process, which involves a greatly expanded system of school choice aimed at ensuring more equitable access.

School District 1 is roughly bounded by E. 14th St., the East River, Fourth Ave. / Bowery, Delancey and Clinton Sts. Parents have always been able to choose between the district’s elementary schools. Nevertheless, often the schools are racially and socioeconomically segregrated. In fact, according to a 2014 report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, in many cases, District 1 schools are “intensely” segregrated, with only 1 percent to 10 percent white students.

Go to The Villager to read more about the pilot program for the Lower East Side and East Village schools.

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