Members of Community Education Board district 11 are continuing the fight against the ongoing problem of overcrowded schools.
At its first meeting of the school year, members agreed to begin the long process of rezoning schools in the southern part of the district. Since the CEC only deals with schools that house preschoolers through eighth graders, the zoning will mostly affect middle and elementary schools in the Parkchester and Castle Hill areas.
Rezoning, which involves redrawing the lines that determine which students attend which schools, is a commonly used tool to fight overcrowding. With the rezoning the district hopes to send students from overcrowded schools to other schools that have recently opened, or to underutilized facilities.
“This is an attempt to handle the needs we have here, since we are one of the most overcrowded districts in the Bronx,” CEC president Petra Poleon said. “We want to see if we can fill any empty seats that may exist with other students from our district.”
For the next few months, the seven members of the board will be walking to each middle and elementary school in the district to meet with teachers and faculty. They hope to determine which buildings are underutilized and which buildings are over their capacity.
Although the board may have a different definition of what constitutes an underutilized building than the city does, it will nonetheless stick to the Department of Education’s formula for determining the needs of the building.
The process will also involve a lot of community involvement and input from parents, students and principals.
“Wewant to look at space that could be used not only for seats, but for other activities,” Poleon said. “In certain places they may be holding classes in the hallways for certain periods, and that’s not an ideal situation.”
The board began looking into whether to pursue a rezoning project after a new school facility on Boston and Baychester roads came online, and since the new Van Nest Academy opened its doors.
Although the rezoning will not affect schools as far north as Van Nest, the district will study the impact that opening the school has had on the district as a whole, Poleon said.
Poleon said she is hopeful the board can have a formal proposal for redistricting by the end of the school year.
Several years ago the board headed a project to rezone schools in the northern part of the district, in Morris Park and Van Nest, but with huge numbers of families continuing to move into district, there always seem to be far too many students for the available school space, Poleon said.
“We did it successfully years ago, but overcrowding continues to be a problem and this is one way to help alleviate that,” she said.
“Hopefully by the time the next school year comes, we will be ready with the rezoning.”