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NYC parents demand more zoned high schools to prioritize neighborhood students

Martin Luther King HS entrance in Manhattan, top left inset; exterior of Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, bottom left inset; La Guardia HS entrance with groups of students walking near entrance as main pic.
Martin Luther King HS entrance in Manhattan, top left inset; exterior of Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, bottom left inset; La Guardia HS entrance with groups of students walking near entrance as main pic.

The city should expand zoned high schools so more students can count on a seat in their neighborhood school, parents demanded this week.

Parents on the Citywide Council for High Schools, a volunteer advisory group, voted Wednesday in favor of a resolution calling on the city to expand zoned schools and create a working group on how it can be done.

“This is not intended to solve all the problems that many families experience around admission,” said the resolution’s sponsor, Brooklyn representative Linda Quarles. “It is one piece.”

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated geographic priorities in an effort to “advance diversity and equity in admissions decisions and expand opportunity for all students.” Angel Chevrestt
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated geographic priorities in an effort to “advance diversity and equity in admissions decisions and expand opportunity for all students.” Angel Chevrestt

Only 38% of high school applicants in the Big Apple have access to a school with a zoning guarantee or priority, according to the group.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio — who sought to increase diversity and equity in admissionsaxed zoned schools in 2021 on his way out of office, claiming it “limited opportunity for hard-working students to attend some of our most in-demand schools.”

Before then, about half of the city’s high schools had some type of district, borough or other residency requirement, including District 2 in Manhattan, where competitive schools mainly prioritized district kids.

Now, there are no zoned schools in Manhattan and only two in the Bronx.

There are five in Staten Island, six in Brooklyn and 15 in Queens.

“Between January through February, I received about 1,000 emails … all these emails being sent by families just from District 2 saying they can’t live in limbo, not knowing if their children will be commuting out of borough or an hour or two a day round trip,” Manhattan rep Ben Morden told The Post.

“That’s an example of why people move out or look for other options, like private school.”

Parents are calling for more schools to grant guarantees or priorities in admissions for local students in an effort to cut commute times and boost local schools. Angel Chevrestt
Parents are calling for more schools to grant guarantees or priorities in admissions for local students in an effort to cut commute times and boost local schools. Angel Chevrestt

Students in the Bronx and Brooklyn are especially in need of zoned schools, as well as those in Manhattan’s District 2, Quarles noted, and some schools could be boosted by giving a geographic preference.

“Some of the schools that I’ve spoken to that have low enrollment would be very excited to be considered as zoned or zoned priority because they know that in their community, there are students that would be a great addition to their community school,” she noted.

Queens representative Lisa Stowe said her son travels about an hour and 20 minutes from Astoria to Bay Ridge every day for school.

About half of the city’s 400-plus high schools previously granted some type of geographic priority. Now, only 28 high schools are “zoned” and parents are calling for that to be expanded. Stefan Jeremiah
About half of the city’s 400-plus high schools previously granted some type of geographic priority. Now, only 28 high schools are “zoned” and parents are calling for that to be expanded. Stefan Jeremiah

For her family, it works, but she said she supports a zoning option for “families who do value location.”

A DOE spokeswoman said the resolution is being reviewed.

“At New York City Public Schools, we value parent voice and take their concerns very seriously,” she said, adding, “We have a citywide high school choice process in place that ensures that students have access to a wide range of options that meet their needs.”