PS 7 has just 12 students in its kindergarten gifted and talented class, six fewer than the minimum mandated capacity of 18.
The class is so small that funding allocated on a per student basis could not cover the cost of one teacher’s salary, leaving the Department of Education to dole out more than $36,000 in order to keep the G&T class open.
The Riverdale/Kingsbridge area boasts District 10’s only two G&T classes, which are more rigorous than general education classes and are open to students who were the top scorers on entrance exams administered by the Department of Education.
In 2009, PS 24 had the only local G&T classes in the area and a movement grew for more. Advocates said then that the majority of parents seeking G&T seats in the Northwest Bronx came from Riverdale.
When the DOE decided to close the program at PS 54, located on Webster Avenue, and move it to PS 7, on Kingsbridge Avenue, however, some were still dissatisfied, saying the new location was not local enough.
It seems that things have not changed.
Damian McShane, the former Community Board 8 chairman who pushed for an additional G&T program and currently sits on the District 10 Community Education Council, said there is a perception that up-the-hill schools like PS 24 and the Robert J. Christen School, PS 81 are far better than PS 7. Some parents, he said, would rather send their children to PS 81, even if it means they won’t be enrolled in an advanced class.
“I definitely think there’s an up-the-hill down-the-hill perception,” he said.
PS 24 interim acting assistant principal Manny Verdi said the discrepancy could be a matter of zoning.
“It seems like a lot of people would rather be in a zoned class at 24 rather than a G&T class at 7,” he said. “I think people want to be close to their home.”
In an interview last month, PS 7 Principal Frank Patterson said the G&T kindergarten class is difficult to fill because parents of pre-kindergarteners don’t often think of getting their children tested. He encouraged families to visit PS 7 to learn more about the admission process and to request a test.
All of PS 24’s classes are filled, except its fifth grade. Mr. Verdi said administrators reached out to the DOE but were not given any additional students.
In order to fill gifted and talented seats, principals must let the DOE know that they have space. Theoretically, that’s a step that can open the floodgates but, in practice it is often ineffective, since parents are unlikely to move their children from one school to another two months into the school year, according to PS 24 parent and District 10 Community Education Council President Marvin Shelton.
Mr. Shelton said PS 24 administrators could move a student from general education classes into G&T but have not yet done so.
A few years ago, then-PS 7 Principal Renee Cloutier was criticized for doing just that. Detractors said she was dumbing down the program. Mr. Verdi said PS 24 administrators would not take that step.
The G&T classes at both PS 24 and PS 7 are district-wide programs, made up of advanced classes located in a general education schools. The city also offers five citywide programs, including three in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens. Citywide programs have whole schools dedicated to accelerated instruction and are even more competitive.