Overcrowding of P.S. 8, Brooklyn Heights’ neighborhood public school, has been a persistent problem for years and a growing concern of the neighborhood. On January 5, 2016, the District 13 Community Education Council (CEC13) voted 6-3 to rezone P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights and P.S. 307 in Vinegar Hill. While it will partially alleviate further congestion of P.S. 8, it will not entirely solve the problem due to projected residential development that will further increase the school age population within its zoned area. The rezoning, which will become effective with the 2016-17 calendar school year, places all of DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and Concord Village in P.S. 307’s zone, which has been an underutilized school serving residents of Vinegar Hill’s Farragut Houses since the 1960s.
To address P.S. 8’s chronic overcrowding, the rezoning action was advocated by the Heights community, and especially by parents of P.S. 8 students. In recent years, it has been at 143% of capacity. At the start of the 2015-2016 school year, 50 kindergarten students zoned for the school were placed on a waitlist due to the overcrowding. It currently serves about 750 students, but even with the rezoning it will remain at that level for a number of years due to a grandfathering provision within the rezoning plan. It will enable families who have been zoned to P.S. 307 to send the younger siblings of a child presently attending P.S. 8 to the Brooklyn Heights school. The grandfathering will delay the timeframe during which overcrowding at P.S. 8 will diminish and may generate wait lists for zoned students in coming years.
P.S. 307’s enrollment is expected to expand from 372 students to 670-770 students, which will bring its capacity utilization to almost 100%. The increase will necessitate that M.S. 313, the middle school extension housed at P.S. 307 that serves about 95 students, be relocated to the new middle school at the base of 60 Water Street. The new middle school will also serve about 70 pre-K students.
CEC13’s vote was highly controversial and was delayed two months to meet the affected communities’ demand for additional time to discuss the proposal. It reflected a widespread concern that the Department of Education had done insufficient preparation for the rezoning when it announced the plan in September 2016. Among the difficult issues that surfaced due to the rezoning were concerns about (1) the loss of Title 1 funding at P.S 307, which requires 60% or more students at a school to qualify for free lunch, and (2) the change in the racial composition of the P.S. 307 student body, which was a concern felt by the P.S. 307 parents who had devoted years to improving the quality of the school. The DOE addressed the concern by agreeing to set aside 50% of the seats in each class at P.S. 307 to children from low-income households.
The BHA will continue to monitor the impact of the District 13 school rezoning and advocate for a reduction in overcrowding at P.S. 8. We will also support diversity in each school’s population and advocate for quality education for all.