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DOE Officials: Morris Park lacks enough middle schools

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Getting into a local middle school for Morris Park kids has become a crap shoot.

There just aren’t enough local middle schools to hold public school grads, city Education Department officials admit.

Instead, they’ve been forced to use a lottery system, with the losers sent to schools at the far end of the school district near the Westchester County line.

DOE officials made the admission at a July 18 meeting with Councilman Jimmy Vacca and Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Community Association.

The two are pressing the DOE to funnel more local students into the highly-respected P.S./M.S. 498-Van Nest Academy at 1640 Bronxdale Avenue.

It’s one of two middle schools in Morris Park - not large enough for the hundreds of graduating students from P.S. 108 and 105.

Adding to the crunch is another K-5 school set to open on Lydig Ave in 2013.

Despite DOE assurances more local students will be sent to the local middle school, parents are outraged they’ve still had to apply through the school lottery system and take their chances their child will be assigned to the local school.

The result is parents angry and fearful their soon-to-be six graders will be bussed to remote middle schools, including one at 3710 Barnes Avenue in Williamsbridge.

While the schools are zoned in District 11, parents think they are too far and too dangerous for their kids.

“I wouldn’t send my kids there,” said D’Angelo. “Not in this day and age in the city.”

While the DOE agreed there’s a shortage, it maintained - against the reality of the lottery - that it is honoring its promise of enrollment priority to Morris Park kids.

“If the DOE is correct in saying they gave priority to students at 108 and 105, the sixth grade at P.S. 498 should be filled with students from those schools.” fumed D’Angelo.

The DOE said it accepted only 12% of applicants in the area this year.

The DOE has proposed several solutions, including leasing the now-closed St. Dominic’s Catholic School.

D’Angelo has suggested building a school at 180th Street.

Carmen Lucia, mother of three, is hell bent on getting her daughter Catiana, 11, into the nearby school where her 8-year-old daughter already attends.

Catiana graduated P.S. 105 in June and her mom was told she would be placed in Van Nest Academy, since DOE policy is to ry to place siblings in the same school.

But Lucia was shocked when her daughter was put in the school lottery and assigned to a school in Castle Hill, too far for Lucia. The school, according to Lucia, has an inadequate science program for Catiana, who yearns to be a marine biologist. The Van Nest Academy boasts a hands-on science program. “I would rather homeschool my kid,” railed Lucia. “I don’t care if the [Administration of Children’s Services] comes knocking at my door.”

Debbie Tinelli, whose child was also denied a spot has considered enrolling her kid at a Catholic school.

A DOE spokesman said it has done its best to accommodate parents, but those who were picked reside several homes away from the middle school. As the clock ticks toward September, parental anger continues.

But D’Angelo said there could be hope for at least a few children, if other parents pull their children out of the mniddle school for various reasons. For now, Morris Park is crossing its fingers.

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

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