New middle school changes the game in Downtown Brooklyn

September 7, 2012 By Mary Frost
Seth Phillips, Dale Mason with her son Tristan, and Senator Daniel Squadron. Photo by Mary Frost
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Talk about dedication: Even with two broken arms, P.S. 8 Principal Seth Phillips was on hand to greet students and parents at P.S. 8’s brand new middle school on the first day of school Thursday. The middle school — dubbed M.S. 8 — shares space with three high schools at the Westinghouse site on Tillary Street.

The expansion of the popular Brooklyn Heights elementary school is a dream come true for parents who have pushed for a local middle school for years — and Phillips wasn’t about to miss opening day just because both arms were in slings (due to a soccer mishap this past Saturday).

“We’ve been waiting all summer,” Phillips told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “I’m just glad it’s happening. The space is great, and Westinghouse and City Poly have been nothing but welcoming. Allison Hicks, our new assistant principal, is better than can be imagined.”

Besides George Westinghouse High School, M.S. 8 is sharing the Downtown Brooklyn complex with City Polytechnic High School and a special education school, 75K369.  

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

M.S. 8 opened with 55 kids in the sixth grade and will expand by one grade each year until it reaches full scale in 2014-2015.

State Senator Daniel Squadron, a backer of the middle school, was at the door to hand out copies of his latest Parent Resource Guide. “It’s been a lot of work for administrators, parents, the community and the Department of Education,” he said. “It’s a great day for Brooklyn Heights and all of Brooklyn.”

Virginie Robinson, with kids at both P.S. 8 and M.S. 8 said, “I’m very enthusiastic about M.S. 8 – it’s going to be a great school. The after-school is already put together, and Seth is amazing – I have no doubt he can pull it off.” Choosing M.S. 8 was a “no-brainer,” she added. “We were accepted at other very nice middle schools, but M.S. 8 was our first choice.”

Entering sixth-grader Zeke Merlis admitted he was a little nervous “because it’s a new building and a new system and stuff.”

And mom Dale Mason was also a little shaky after sending her sixth-grade daughter Katelyn through the complex’s metal detectors. “It’s heart-wrenching that my baby has to go through metal detectors. It’s a whole different atmosphere than P.S. 8. I trust it will be OK.”

Laura Davidson said the metal detectors were a bit of a shock to her daughter as well, but when she met other P.S. 8 students and saw how friendly they were, “She was OK and said I can leave now.”

Principal Phillips said that the kids would quickly get used to the metal detectors. “It’s not just about us, it’s about the whole building. If it keeps our kids safer, I’m all for it.”

The crossing guard blows her whistle at an impatient driver as families try to cross the street. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Thursday, Schools Chancellor Walcott visited Young Scholars Academy for Discovery and Exploration in Bedford Stuyvesant, a “turnaround” school that received an A on its most recent progress report. The visit was part of his annual five-borough first-day rounds.

Across the city, 55 new schools opened this year, including 24 charter schools (nine in Brooklyn).

Other changes include a major revamp of special ed, where the city is moving almost 160,000 special-education students into mainstream classes.

Tests are also getting tougher. The 2013 state math and English tests will reflect the new Common Core standards and require students to read more complex texts, develop written arguments and problem solve. In math, the tests will focus on a narrower range of topics.

To help, the city is launching new school information texts for parents. The texting program will offer information such as calendar updates, reminders and tips on how to access school resources. Families can enroll by texting “nycschools” to 877-877.

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