Families will have an extra two months to weigh in on a controversial plan to expand a Vinegar Hill elementary school zone next year to ease overcrowding at a nearby Brooklyn Heights institution — but parents say that may still not be enough time to scrutinize a scheme the city dumped on them only a month ago with little notice or consultation.
“I think the whole plan to have it done by next year was ambitious to begin with,” said Clifford Dodd, who has a son at Vinegar Hill’s PS 307, which the city plans on rezoning to include kids from Dumbo who would otherwise go to the bursting-at-the-seams PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights next year. “I mean, it’s possible, but I find it improbable.”
The local community education council was scheduled to vote on the plan in October or early November following a series of town hall meetings on the changes last month, but the Department of Education is now pushing that back to December or January “to allow for more meaningful dialogue with impacted communities,” said spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
The change comes after locals slammed the department for rushing into the scheme without considering how the change would affect the Vinegar Hill school — where the vast majority of students are minorities and qualify for free lunch — or Dumbo families who until recently expected to send their youngsters to the majority-white PS 8, opening up debates about school segregation that caught the attention of media outlets city-wide.
The department says it will now convene two focus groups of parents, community members, and city officials to discuss the current proposal in the coming months. After that, it will host another public town hall meeting to present any changes made to the plan, and the school district’s community education council — Community Education Council 13 — will then vote.
It is unlikely the city will reconsider the new school zone borders, but the discussions could create a strategy for smoothing the transition, said a Community Education Council 13 member who did not want to be named.
Dodd says he is grateful for the extra time and consultation, despite his reservations, and does believe the rezoning could work — it just needs more consideration.
“It’s safe to say there are reservations on all sides” he said. “But I believe there is a solution that works for everyone, whether you live the Farragut Houses or in a million-dollar condo, but there needs to be an equitable and fair conversation about it.”