Kids, parents may soon be able to choose their middle school


| lguerre@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guere
THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guere

Bibi Mohamed does not want to send her youngest child to I.S. 109 in Queens Village.

Mohamed is a PTA member of P.S. 135, which her son currently attends, and is leery of the middle school, because she has heard negative rumors about it from fellow parents, as well as her older son, a current seventh grader there.

However, because of district rules she doesn’t have much of a choice.

I.S. 109 is in District 29, a zoned school area — which, like many districts around the city, only allows parents to send their children to public middle schools that are the closest in proximity to their home addresses.

“Unless they give us choice we are basically stuck on where they have to go,” Mohamed said.

Zoned districts stand in stark contrast to “choice” districts that allows parents to send their kids to any school within the region.

Recent talks within Community District Education Council (CDEC) 29 and results of an online survey could give Mohamed’s child more options.

The questionnaire from CDEC 29 showed that 94.3 percent of parents would like the choice to send their kids to another school aside from their zoned institutions.

The option to change a district over to “choice” is solely within the CDEC’s power and the Department of Education (DOE) complies with what the representatives want.

“Middle school choice is a community-based decision, and we would not implement it without the support of a district parent council and the broader community,” said David Pena, a representative of the DOE. “Currently, there is no proposed plan to make District 29 a full choice district for middle school.”

After parents like Mohamed started contacting the CDEC, the Council started discussing a change and decided to conduct the survey to research opinions within the district.

Currently, the organization has no plans to alter the district, because it is still collecting data and weighing the pros and cons.

“The positives are parents will have a choice in which middle schools their child attends. [But] the negatives are schools may have to market their programs and progress records to the parents,” said Alicia Hyndman, president of CDEC 29. “I do not have a set opinion at this time, as I am still talking with parents and community members.”

The Council isn’t set to vote on the middle school choice at their upcoming open meeting on June 21, but some parents are hoping the members act quickly.

“I think that it [the survey] should be taken as a litmus test that a lot of our schools need help,” Nathaniel Hyland, a P.S. 135 parent, said. “It should show that parents are not comfortable with schools in their district. We are the ones that live here; we are the ones that see what’s going on.”

Like Mohamed’s son, Hyland’s twin third graders will have to enroll in I.S. 109 after graduating from P.S. 135.

“I just want my children to be comfortable,” Hyland said, adding “The reason why I think that we should choose is because parents should have the ability to give their children what they perceive to be the best shot at a better education, without distractions.”

Calls to I.S. 109 went unreturned as of press time.