Parents Push For School Redistricting

BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Staff Writer

A small group of Northwestern Queens parents are tired of being juggled from one school district to another.

A two-block region known by locals as the “lost peninsula” sits against two districts – students living there spend third, fourth and fifth grade in District 24, but are in District 30 up until second grade, and then again for middle school.

“People have been living with it, but it’s not something parents like to do,” said Isaac Carmignani, co-president of Community Education Council 30. “And as kids get into middle school, they have enough on their plate – they’re trying to be involved socially with their friends. That’s very important at that age.”

Parent Katie Musselwhite-Goldsmith, who has spearheaded a redistricting effort, started a petition several years ago to bring her neighborhood permanently into District 30. She gathered more than 200 signatures.

Musselwhite-Goldsmith was told by representatives of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to wait until 2014 to pick up the issue, when it was indicated DOE rezoning would take place.

Last week, she presented the issue to Chancellor Carmen Fariña. She spoke positively of her interaction with Fariña and the Dept. of Education’s attentiveness.

“I’m hopeful, because I’ve had more of a response under this administration than I did under the Bloomberg administration,” Musselwhite-Goldsmith said.

For area parents, a possible solution lies in PS 339, scheduled to open in 2015 in Woodside. The Dept. of Education could instigate a “domino effect,” Carmignani said, by shifting districts to the East once this school opens, so that the “lost peninsula” becomes absorbed by District 30 without too much additional overcrowding.

According to a 2011 report released by advocacy group Make the Road New York, Districts 24 and 30 are two of the most overcrowded school districts in the City, with more than half of students attending overburdened schools.

“We are aware of the situation and have been actively engaged in listening to concerns of the community,” said Harry Hartfield, a spokesman for the DOE. “While we have not yet made a decision regarding redistricting, we will work with the impacted families to respond to their needs.”

Musselwhite-Goldsmith said that besides the disruption to her children’s social spheres, she is worried about the unfamiliar commute the zoning will force them to take. When her son, now in first grade at PS 222, graduates to PS 89, he will cross Roosevelt Avenue into an unfamiliar area.

“I can’t imagine having my third grader crossing Roosevelt into a completely different neighborhood,” she said.

Roosevelt Avenue is considered a high crash corridor by the Dept. of Transportation.

Last month, CEC 24 passed a resolution to reintroduce the lost peninsula into District 30. According to Carmignani, CEC 30 is expected to pass a similar resolution in the coming month.

“[We are] working that out between the districts and that’s positive. That’s the grassroots work we’re supposed to be doing,” Carmignani said.

Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, jstrawbridge@queenstribune.com or @JNStrawbridge.