2007-11-15 / Other News

P.S. 135 Protestors Tell City To Park Its Schoolyard Plans

By Neil S. Friedman Courier

P.S. 135 PTApresident, flanked by parents and officials, addresses crowd outside of school on Monday during protest of city's plans to convert schoolyard to a public park while school remains overcrowded. Assemblyman Perry and Council Member Mealy  stand to her left.
P.S. 135 PTApresident, flanked by parents and officials, addresses crowd outside of school on Monday during protest of city's plans to convert schoolyard to a public park while school remains overcrowded. Assemblyman Perry and Council Member Mealy stand to her left. The three Rs have been supplemented at one District 18 public school with an essential, though non-educational, entity.

For quite some time Public School 135 has been overcrowded and has needed more Room - thus a fourth R. More room at the East Flatbush elementary school is now almost as essential as reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.

The school's PTA president, Anas-tatia Davis-John, and Principal Penny Grinage have joined a campaign blasting the city's plans to convert the spacious schoolyard into a public park. Scores of disgruntled parents supported Davis-John at a press conference, along with state Assemblyman Nick Perry and City Council Member Dar-lene Mealy, outside the school on Monday to attack the city's plan and, hopefully, have their voices heard before any changes begin.

The mayor's broad plan - PlaNYC - to make the city greener, including the makeover of nearly 300 schoolyards across the city, will give every New Yorker a nearby park or play space. P.S. 135's schoolyard is on the renovation agenda.

The school uses the sizable schoolyard for daily class lineups when the weather is appropriate and for select activities, since the main building lacks a gymnasium. However, abutting the yard are four portable classrooms that, for the last six years, have accommodated an overflow of students, due to insufficient classroom space, at 684 Linden Boulevard. The school has had an annex a mile away on Ditmas Ave-nue for more than a decade that provides space for 220 kindergarten and first grade students, who are bused there daily.

Grinage, who has been principal there for the last 15 years, told the this week that "almost everyone" in the school community objects to the conversion of the school yard to a public park.

"We've had an overcapacity problem for 11 years, which is when the annex was built," she said, "to temporarily alleviate the problem. But an addition to the main building, which was proposed and budgeted back then, is no longer on anyone's agenda.

"I'm not opposed to public parks, except when it comes at the expense of my students."

Grinage and PTA president Anas-tatia Davis-John fear that the public park will mean an extension may never get built.

Davis-John said many parents are "up in arms over the city's plan, while ignoring our needs."

She added, "Our main concern is that a long-needed extension will be overshadowed by this project."

The principal and PTA president also complained that on primary election days, such as the one in Septem-ber, the public is allowed into the cafeteria to vote while pupils sit a few feet away having lunch.

"That puts them too close to the children because the voting booths have to be placed in the cafeteria," Grinage pointed out.

David-John said she was shocked that the city went ahead with plans without consulting the school commu-nity.

Mealy told the media, "We need an extension, not a park, so our children will be educated under one roof, not in trailers."

When asked about the P.S. 135 situation at a press conference after the protest took place, the mayor simply referred inquiries to a deputy mayor and defended his public parks plan.

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