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City delays vote on PS 8, PS 307 rexoning for two months

City delays school rezoning vote — but not for long enough, say parents

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.”

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jay from Brooklyn says:
The current zoning looks like gerrymandering.
Oct. 12, 2015, 11:52 am
Rob U from North Slope says:
@Jay - Because it was! Both the zone and district lines in this area have their legacy in historical "red lining" -- very much gerrymandering. The D13/D15 line itself is a great example. Why is Park Slope cut in two? Look at the housing patterns when the district line at Union Street was created.

Changing topics ...

I'm on CEC 13 and will be voting on the rezoning. What this article is missing is that IS 611, the Dock Street middle school committed to the CEC and public two years ago, is still MIA, and the entire rezoning hinges on moving MS 313 to Dock Street. I can't support a rezoning where the price the district pays to rezone one part of the district is the sacrifice of a new middle school that was committed years ago and is desperately needed by the entire district as a whole.

The right plan would be to keep with the plan to create the new school at Dock Street, IS 611, and in turn discuss with the MS 313 principal, faculty, parents, and community the idea of merging into 611, which could likely happen over a couple years. Keep in mind that 313 has 87 kids in an a space allocation of 300 in the 307 building according to the DOE ... and I don't think anyone is expecting a potentially expanded 307 zone to produce 300 new elementary kids in '16-'17. So there is time to transition 313. The move of 313 does not need to happen immediately, nor should the move of 313 necessitate scrapping the new school, IS 611. Critically we need to hear from the 313 community - what do they want? - as well as parents of rising middle schoolers across the district. Again, losing 611 is just too dear a price for district that really needs better district middle school options. I never came into this rezoning thinking we'd lose IS 611 in the process. It's unacceptable.

D13 parents need more and better district middle school options and it's significant that the DOE has reneged on its commitment to the new school, IS 611. Talk to D13 parents who have been or are going through the middle school process about the district options their kids have (well, don't have), especially as compared to those nearby in D15. A moved school (MS 313) is not the same as a new school. See http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/38/41/dtg-school-rezoning-middle-school-2015-10-09-bk.html
Oct. 12, 2015, 3:56 pm
V from DUMBO says:
MS 313 is on the DOE's "Persistently Dangerous" schools list for 2015-2016. How does that factor into a merger with the proposed new IS 611? As a parent of two children who might attend this new school and as a resident living very close to the Dock Street location, I would be concerned with safety issues both inside and outside the school. Is there any way to know specifically what kinds of incidents occured at MS 313 to get the school on this list? And are the ways in which the school's administration is working to remedy the situation made public?
Oct. 13, 2015, 12:58 am
Rob U from North Slope says:
V -

Just to clarify, a merger of 313 into 611 is *not* what the DOE is proposing.

A merger of 313 into 611 *is* what many of us (myself included) on the CEC *thought* would happen given we (the CEC and general public) had been committed a new school (611) at Dock Street two years ago and the 307/8 rezoning includes 313 moving to Dock Street.

But right now, to be very clear, 611 is MIA, which is devastating for D13 parents with rising middle schoolers who were counting on a new school option for next year. Right now the only plan the DOE has - and this was the bombshell dropped on us on 9/30 - is to only move MS 313 to Dock Street. IS 611 appears to be collateral damage to the DOE's desire to push the rezoning of 8 and 307 forward, though I at least am certainly going to fight for IS 611 (and MSOneBrooklyn). It would appear families in neighborhoods such as Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant who want stronger district middle schools and were counting on 611 will be the ultimate losers in the DOE effort to address overcrowding of the elementary school in Brooklyn Heights.

There are 9 district middle schools that are open to all D13 families: 5 of these have one or several of the following designations: "persistently dangerous," "focus", or "priority". 3 of the 32 schools on the New York States "persistently dangerous list" - 10% of the list - were D13 middles, a list that includes both middle and high schools across New York state. This is one of many reasons why some of us on the CEC keep saying middle school quality is the most urgent issue in D13. It would appear the de facto strategy of the DOE -- and this is what parents hear from D13 elementary school principals and guidance counselors - is for D13 kids to go to charter middle schools, private middle schools, or find a way into District 15 for middle school.

This is is one reason parents zoned for PS 8 who might be rezoned are likely fighting to stay zoned for PS 8 -- they'll lose their admissions preference to MS 8, one of just two higher performing middles (along with Arts & Letters, which also has a lower school admissions preference) in D13.

Specific to your question, I believe most of the info you are asking about is public record, and probably discoverable doing a couple searches. If it's not immediately available, I'd suggest a FOIL request. This article, http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150813/upper-west-side/number-of-persistently-dangerous-city-schools-on-decline-state-says, also provides some background.

Finally, let me clear in stating that the DOE must do the right thing for both the existing MS 313 community - their principal, staff, faculty, students, and family, and for district 13 families as a whole clamoring for improved D13 district middle school options. We need to honor the families, staff, and history at 313 while we continue to work to create new options such as 611 and MSOneBrooklyn.
Oct. 13, 2015, 8:23 am

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