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Delta turns Omega

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Public School 185’s Delta program is on its way out.

This paper has learned that the school, on Ridge Boulevard in Bay Ridge, is phasing out its popular gifted and talented program, despite the fact that P.S. 185 was listed as a choice on gifted applications for the upcoming school year.

P.S. 185’s current Delta students will remain in the program, but there will be no classes for incoming kindergartners or first graders.

“The principal asked us to phase it out because of space constraints in the building,” city Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Andrew Jacob told this paper. “When he came to us with those concerns, the superintendent looked into it and agreed that he had a valid concern about space constraints.”

The situation is more than an inconvenience for some.

Liz Amato, who lives near P.S. 185, said she turned down a place for her son at a nearby private school, Bay Ridge Prep, because she believed he would get into P.S. 185. Now, with the elimination of the Delta kindergarten class at P.S. 185, she will be forced to drive him to P.S. 229 on Benson Avenue in Dyker Heights.

“I wanted to be able to walk to school,” Amato told this paper. “I’m very disappointed. I feel this is a loss to the community.”

Specifically, Amato said, she wishes that the DOE had been straightforward with parents about the possibility that the Delta program might be phased out. “Parents didn’t even think about their second or third choice school,” Amato said. “Had they explained to us that the program might not be at 185, parents might have taken the second and third choices more seriously.”

It also would have helped had parents not learned of the decision to phase out Delta at P.S. 185 when the school year almost ended. Parents were supposed to learn which school their children had been assigned to on June 15th but DOE delayed the announcement till June 19th, Amato said. As early as June 11th, there were rumors circulating that there would be no Delta class at 185 −− rumors that were confirmed for Amato not by staff at 185, who denied them, but by staff at 229, Amato said.

DOE could have avoided a lot of the angst, Amato stressed, “By letting us know in advance.”

“This is just another one of those Department of Education flubs,” asserted Fran Gillen, whose three children attended P.S. 185. “With gifted and talented, they happen every year. It should be a simple process of ranking children. It’s an Excel spreadsheet. What’s wrong with these people that they can’t get it right?”

DOE, Jacob countered, “Didn’t make any placements in P.S. 185 and then retract them. We simply just didn’t make any placements at 185 at all this year.

“We made this decision before we sent parents their gifted and talented placement letters,” Jacob stressed. “No one ever got an offer to this program only to have us come back and say, ‘Sorry.’”

Jacob said parents were given fair warning that P.S. 185’s Delta program may not continue.

On the application materials, “We do say that the fact that a program is listed on the application doesn’t guarantee that it’s actually going to open a class in the fall,” Jacob said.

Laurie Windsor, president of District 20’s Community Education Council (CEC), said P.S. 185 nixed new Delta classes for next year to ensure that there’s enough room for zoned students.

“They have no room for their zoned kids. They’re very overcrowded,” she explained.

The Delta program is open to all students districtwide, and P.S. 185 was at 132 percent capacity during the 2007−08 school year, according to DOE.

“I do feel for those parents that weren’t expecting this because it was listed on the application,” Windsor said. However, “How fair is it if you’re zoned for the school but there’s no room to let you in? As much as we like the gifted and talented, the zoned kids have to come first.”

P.S. 185 will implement a similar gifted−style program this September, Jacob said.

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