Cramming for tests, but not for space, at PS 8

The Brooklyn Paper
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Parents were bursting with excitement after the city rolled out its design for a three-story annex to relieve overcrowding in PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights, one of the borough’s most-popular elementary schools.

The construction of seven additional classrooms will begin this summer and, when complete in 2011, obviate the need for portable trailers that were hauled into the schoolyard before the start of this school year.

“This is the necessary solution. Things are a little crowded,” said Karen McDermott, the mother of a kindergarten student. “My daughter has 26 students in her class.”

But it’s not a perfect solution. Besides the seven new classrooms for the Hicks Street school, there will be an all-purpose room in the basement, but not a full-fledged gymnasium, an amenity the school lacks now. The annex will also permanently reduce the amount of outdoor space at the school.

“It’s a shame they’re losing the play space,” said one father who did not want to give his name.

The massive new wing will reduce strain on the lower grades, but leave parents with the vexing problem of where to send their children to middle school. Many local parents, and their city councilman, David Yassky, have asked the city to expand PS 8 into a K8 program, but city officials have instead negotiated with David and Jed Walentas, who say they will build a middle school for the city inside their controversial Dock Street tower in nearby DUMBO.

“There’s been the lack of any foresight,” said Thomas Benson, father of a fourth grader, who, like many Brooklyn Heights residents, does not support the Walentas plan.

The city presented the new annex renderings, whose design matches PS 8’s existing building, to Community Board 2 last Wednesday. A budget was not released.

The Department of Education announced last July that it would enlarge PS 8, shortly after the temporary trailer plan was introduced, and then stunned many parents and teachers in September when the allegedly overachieving school received an F on the city’s performance grading system. The grades are based on improvement from year to year, not an objective measure of the school’s overall quality.

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