Rare is the year that would not be described as tumultuous by those who lived through it, and 2016 was hardly an exception. Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived by sea in Europe, Britain voted to exit the European Union.
Hyperlocally, public schools battled overcrowding, residents argued with officials and developers over construction plans, traffic accidents caused injuries and claimed at least one life, a merchant association proposed – and then pledged to withdraw – a plan to reduce the number of road lanes in Riverdale.
The northwest Bronx and its people have many concerns and aspirations, problems and plans. Nearly every problem is pressing, nearly every hope is urgent, and nearly every resident is likely to have his or her ideas about what the year 2017 should accomplish above all else.
But there is one issue that concerns all of us, even those whom it does not seem to concern directly at first glance.
Riverdale’s future in a year or two from now depends on whether people want to live here or to move away. For many, a decisive factor in choosing a neighborhood – or packing up and leaving one – is the kind of public schools the neighborhood offers.
Riverdale’s future a decade or two from now depends on what kind of education we give our children. Today’s children are the ones who will shape the city and begin tackling its many problems and working on achieving its aspirations in a decade or two. Future success, or failures, in those tasks depends on the schools the children attend today.
The quality of Riverdale’s schools is an issue that concerns each of us.
Yes some of these schools are struggling with trying to teach twice as many kids as they had been designed to accommodate. Many of the kids in the overcrowded are struggling to meet the state’s standards in English and math, according to Education Department data. Some of the schools have no crossing guards, and instead, parents volunteer there to help children get across the street without being hit by a speeding car.
Those problems are not new. Year after year, parents, teachers and politicians lament the plight of local schools. Year after year, the problems persist. They may sometimes seem unsurmountable.
Yet community efforts have achieved many changes in the past, around the world and in small hyperlocal neighborhoods alike. We can make a joint effort as a community and help ensure better schools for every child in Riverdale, Kingsbridge and beyond. Contact the Education Department, speak out at Community Board 8 meetings, call local politicians, write letters to The Press or other newspapers, make your opinion known. It is time the city’s education officials fixed public schools’ problems.