Brooklyn Heights

DOE to meet with parents shut out of Brooklyn’s P.S. 8

More than 700 sign petition

May 5, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A meeting has been set for May 13 for families shut out of overcrowded P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Mary Frost

Parents at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights have gathered more than 740 signatures on a petition urging the city to maintain six kindergarten classes there in order to ensure seats for all zoned students.

Because of overcrowding, pre-K classes have already been eliminated, and roughly 50 families have been put on a kindergarten waitlist.

Shut out families are demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and other DOE officials devise “meaningful medium- and long-term solutions for overcrowding” – something they say has not yet been done despite several meetings over the past year with Department of Education (DOE) officials.

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A community engagement meeting has been set for Wednesday, May 13 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of P.S. 287, 50 Navy St.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Stephen Levin, DOE Director of Space Management Thomas Taratko, District 13 Superintendent Barbara Freeman and District 13 CEC President David Goldsmith are scheduled to attend.

P.S. 8 is operating at 142 percent capacity and numerous developments planned for the area will bring explosive growth. Roughly 3,750 new housing units in the school’s zone are already in the pipeline, with completion expected by 2017. (Another 1,750 units have not yet been incorporated into the PTA’s accounting.)

“All elementary aged school children in NYC should be able to attend their zoned neighborhood school,” one parent commented on the petition website, Change.org. “And while we’re at it, there need to be regulations that require ‘x’ number of school seats for ‘x’ number of new residential units constructed! If the DOB and the DOE had worked together and planned to expand as the need was coming down the pike from the beginning this wouldn’t have become an issue.”

Some parents will be sending their kids to P.S. 307, not quite a mile north of P.S. 8 in Vinegar Hill. Some are up in the air, having missed deadlines for applying to other schools and special programs, such as Gifted & Talented.

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Noting that school overcrowding is happening in other neighborhoods as well, CEC 13 is hoping to use the upcoming meeting to help families understand how to navigate the enrollment process when their child does not get into the school they are zoned for.

District 13 has also put together a School Planning Task Force, which is working to alleviate overcrowded schools in Downtown Brooklyn as it faces one of the biggest residential building booms in it’s history.

 

DOE: ‘We went out of our way to warn parents’

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Stephen Levin, and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon released a joint statement in April castigating DOE for failing to deal with the school’s overcrowding, despite “repeated warnings” over the past year.

On Tuesday, the meeting’s organizers said in a statement, “It’s critical that DOE address the serious issues that have been exacerbated by their mishandling of overcrowding at P.S. 8.  CEC 13, local elected officials, and community members have asked DOE to hear these concerns and provide clarity on how and why decisions are made.”

DOE rejects the accusation that the news was “last minute,” and says the department went out of its way to warn parents that the situation was brewing.

“Over the past few months we’ve made outreach to families around the expected zoned waitlists at P.S. 8,” DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield said in April.

Hartfield listed two public meetings with parents and representatives of DOE, and another meeting between DOE’s Office of Enrollment, District Planning and Space Planning; the School Construction Authority and P.S. 8’s PTA presidents.

Hartfield also said DOE had held conversations with elected officials prior to offers going out about the school’s waitlist.

Overall, kindergarten statistics in New York City are improved over last year, Schools Chancellor Farina said in a statement in April.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of students who received one of their first choices and a decreased number of schools with waitlists,” she said. “This is a great step in the right direction and we’ll continue working to best serve all families.”

 


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