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Promises broken for MP students slated for far away middle school

Bronx Times

So near, yet so far.

That’s the complaint a Morris Park community leader is making against the city Department of Education, charging they welched on a promise to funnel local elementary students to a new middle school.

The DOE, however, says it never made that promise, and the new school is just too small to take all the students.

“We were told by the DOE that the children from the community would get priority treatment,” said Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Community Association, when P.S./M.S. 498 opened in 2009 at 1640 Bronxdale Avenue.

He also contests a DOE promise that kids from Morris Park and Indian Village would be excluded from the city’s school lottery, an arbitrary selection process that picks a middle school for a student.

But neither has been the case, D’Angelo charged.

Since the latest batch of fifth graders from P.S. 108 and 105 graduated, D’Angelo’s received a wave of complaints from parents outraged their soon-to-be sixth graders were forced into the school lottery.

Many of their requests to enroll at the new school were turned down this year, he said.

Local incoming middle school students will now head to The Young Scholars Academy, at Barnes Avenue and 216th Street in Williamsbridge, a bus ride away, and deemed “far away” by D’Angelo, despite the school being zoned within District 11 lines.

“The Young Scholars Academy doesn’t have the biggest reputation in the world,” he said.

D’Angelo said some of the students who attend the newly-opened P.S./M.S. 498 hail from the southern end of Morris Park near 180th Street, with no nearby middle school.

“Why not build a school there?” asked D’Angelo, adding “that would alleviate the overcrowding at our local schools.”

Still, D’Angelo’s main issue is the city’s move to take kids out of their communities and bus them to 216th Street.

“Why should a child that lives within the community have to be bussed some place else?” argued D’Angelo, a school principal in New Rochelle.

Set on getting more residential kids into P.S./M.S. 498, D’Angelo recently took his gripes to the Bronx borough president’s education advisor, Monica Majors, urging her to convince the borough’s school superintendent to step in.

DOE denies ever saying students would get preferential treatment, but did release documents showing fifth graders from P.S. 108 and 105 are given priority.

But even if the DOE honors the deal, it would be impossible to add more students since P.S./M.S. 498 has limited space.

Records obtained by The Bronx Times Reporter show out of the 750 students who asked to be enrolled there, only 110 were admitted.

There also is a lack of middle schools to meet the demand of kids graduating from public schools, according to D’Angelo.

He said that much of a school’s success rests on how close it resides to the families of students.

“The parents have a vested interest in their community school,” he said, “because they feel part of the school.”

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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