Mayor’s Ed Panel Approves P.S. 8 Expansion

February 15, 2012 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Middle School Co-Locating at Westinghouse

Years of hard work by P.S. 8 families, administration and representatives paid off last Thursday night when the Mayor’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) approved a middle school co-location at Westinghouse High School in Downtown Brooklyn, about five blocks from the Brooklyn Heights elementary school.

The new middle school will open with sixth grade next September and would expand by one grade each year until it reaches full scale in 2014-2015.

Local families, desperate to stay in the neighborhood, have been working for years to add a middle school to the increasingly popular P.S. 8, which is operating at 156 percent capacity.

Besides Westinghouse — officially named the George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School — two other schools share the striking building at 105 Johnson Street, fronting on Tillary: City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology and a special education school, 75K369. The city says that the Westinghouse site is operating at only 79 percent capacity.

“We were happy it went through,” P.S. 8 Principal Seth Phillips told the Brooklyn Heights Press on Tuesday. “We understand there’s a lot of work to be done in both building the middle school and working with the other schools in the building.”

Meeting Wariness

Principal Phillips testified at a preliminary hearing held last Monday that the new middle school “is a very important piece” for the long-term viability of P.S. 8, and reached out to wary parents from the three high schools already in the building.

Some Westinghouse parents claimed that DOE was deliberately shrinking their enrollment to fit in the P.S. 8 middle school. DOE insiders, however, said that the number of Westinghouse students was being reduced in an attempt to strengthen the poorly-performing school.

“Co-location is not easy,” Phillips said at the hearing. “Today’s reality is that if there is spare room somewhere DOE seeks to fill it. We feel we’re a good neighbor. We’re not coming to take over the building, we’re coming to be part of the community.” Phillips said that he felt that all four school leaders would work for the benefit of all the schools.

“I spent a long time with the DOE looking for a good place for P.S. 8,” he said. “This one is in our community. The buildings across the street are zoned for P.S. 8. We are vested in this community, and we’ll try to support Westinghouse as a whole, not just P.S. 8.”

Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights), one of more than 30 supporters who testified in support of expanding P.S. 8 at the preliminary hearing, said, “The expansion into a middle school will mean that students from P.S. 8 will be able to continue their education at a local, quality public school.”

Levin — along with State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman and the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) — has been working with P.S. 8 parents for an expansion of the school.

Brooklyn Heights families have struggled with the lack of a neighborhood middle school for decades. Judy Stanton, executive director of the BHA, said at the hearing that a nearby middle school would help insure that young families stay in the neighborhood.

State Senator Daniel Squadron commented in a statement after the PEP vote, “Tonight’s vote to approve the new P.S. 8 middle school is great news for Brooklyn! By heeding our calls and formalizing the new middle school, DOE is helping to ensure the continued success of P.S. 8 and creating better options for all District 13 students. Now we must work to get the new P.S. 8 middle school ready to go for next school year and continue to work for more options for District 13 students.”

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