By Clara Hemphill and Ana Carla Sant’anna Costa
Stand on the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem early on a school day morning, and you’ll see a steady stream of children leaving the neighborhood by bus and subway. Some parents call this daily exodus the “Harlem diaspora.” They may live in the neighborhood, but they don’t necessarily send their children to their zoned neighborhood schools.
The hemorrhaging of students over the past decade has left many of the traditional neighborhood schools with declining enrollments and shrinking budgets. Five of the seven zoned elementary schools in the northern part of District 3—a district that includes a portion of Harlem in addition to the Upper West Side—now have fewer than 300 children; three have fewer than 200. And, because the children who stay tend to be needier than those who leave, the traditional zoned schools have higher concentrations of poverty and more children with special needs than they would have if everyone who lives in the neighborhood attended their zoned neighborhood school.