Wants DOE to hold off for a year
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A community group in DUMBO says it is angry that it was not consulted before the city submitted its final proposal to rezone P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights and P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill.
The city’s Department of Education (DOE) presented its final rezoning plan on Nov. 23.
On Tuesday, the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance (DNA) sent a letter to DOE criticizing the plan and asking the city to hold off on the rezoning for a year.
The rezoning would shift DUMBO and Vinegar Hill children from overcrowded P.S. 8 to undersubscribed P.S. 307, but the shift leaves many issues unresolved, DNA says.
“The DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance (DNA) is extremely disturbed that the DOE submitted their current school-rezoning proposal without sitting down with the DUMBO community,” the group said in their letter.
DOE has scheduled a meeting for DUMBO residents for December 2 – after the rezoning plan has already been submitted to the District 13 Community Education Council (CEC).
In September and again in October, community meetings on the issue were held at P.S. 8 and P.S. 307, and the issue was the focus of the September CEC 13 public meeting.
DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye responded to DNA’s claims on Wednesday.
"The DOE is committed to working with the CEC and District 13 community to ensure that the rezoning process is inclusive of all partners,” Kaye told the Brooklyn Eagle via email.
“We’re encouraged by the progress and collaboration taking place, and we’ll continue to engage both school communities, families, community members and elected officials with meaningful conversations during the duration of this process,” she added.
Rezoning leaves questions unanswered
The P.S. 8 PTA has supported the rezoning proposal, calling it is the only plan on the table to address P.S. 8's overcrowding in time for the 2016-17 school year.
Last spring, DOE notified 50 families in P.S. 8’s zone that there was no room for their children in P.S. 8’s kindergarten. As other families dropped out, however, the families eventually received placements at P.S. 8.
But DNA says that while the rezoning will address the expected P.S. 8 waitlist, it will not resolve other important issues, including overcrowding, the lack of an onsite pre-K, and a continued lack of diversity at P.S. 8.
P.S. 8’s students currently come from high income Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, along with smaller numbers from Vinegar Hill and Downtown Brooklyn. The poverty rate at P.S. 8 is roughly 15 percent.
At P.S. 307, which caters to children living in the Farragut Houses, 85 percent of the families live at the poverty level. Parents there are proud of the school’s special programs, such as Mandarin class and chess, and have expressed concern that they would lose control of their school with an influx of wealthier DUMBO children.
DNA is also asking for an evaluation of school performance and test scores. In 2015, roughly 64 percent of students passed the annual English and math exams at P.S. 8. At P.S. 307, only 12 percent passed the English exams and 20 percent passed math.
In a related issue, DNA also question’s DOE’s plan to send neighborhood pre-K children to the Dock Street site, instead of to P.S. 307. “This makes no sense if there is plenty of room in P.S. 307 pre-K and our community will be zoned for P.S. 307 for kindergarten,” the group says.
DOE says it will continue to solicit and address feedback from community members during the rezoning process. It hopes to have a plan approved before the month is out.