A for effort! Parents give controversial middle-school makeover a passing grade

A for effort! Parents give controversial middle-school makeover a passing grade

It was a first class launch!

Department of Education officials pulled out all the stops when unveiling their redesign of a struggling Vinegar Hill middle school on Thursday, impressing parents and educators with their new vision after months of controversy surrounding the makeover.

Locals had questioned whether the department could really overhaul MS 313 — which currently has just 74 students — to appeal to more families in a matter of months. But parents are now praising officials for listening to their ideas and creating a swanky, well-rounded new school.

“This was a very new way of the DOE operating and getting this level of community engagement and it’s just wonderful,” said Amy Shire, who serves on the area’s community education council. “It should continue to be a model that people learn from.”

Education honchos revealed the newly re-branded Dock Street School for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math Studies at a catered meeting on Thursday, alongside marketing and a slick new website from influential public relations firm Berlin Rosen.

Parents kicked up a stink in September when the city announced that it would be moving the institution — which is currently co-located with PS 307 and on the state’s “persistently dangerous” list — into a new 300-seat space in a Dumbo high-rise this fall, instead of creating an entirely new school, as they had been expecting.

Officials then further angered locals by abruptly announcing that the school would adopt a science-focused curriculum, while still in the middle of hosting forums to find out what families wanted in the newly located junior high.

But parents are beaming now that plans for the school have been revealed and say the education department did a stand-up job of getting its act together and actually listening to the community’s input.

“This is not the DOE saying ‘this is how the school is going to be,’ it’s the community,” said Vascilla Caldira, who has kids at PS 20 in Fort Greene and is considering sending her fifth-grader to the Dumbo school this fall.

Officials now say the new school will also stress the importance of arts — adding a crucial extra vowel to the typical science, technology, engineering, and mathematics program that Caldira says shows they really were listening to parents.

“They see the significance of arts in the school and it helps so much to get kid’s creative juices flowing,” said Caldira, who is also on the community education council.

Along with the arts and science curriculum, officials also announced the school will partner with neighboring institutions for added perks.

Students will be able to take drama and dance classes at avant-garde performing arts venue St. Ann’s Warehouse, and the theater will also take on some students as interns, principal Melissa Vaughan said.

Kids will also take part in the Brooklyn Bridge Park’s oyster program, in which youngsters measure and count mollusks, and may be able to use the park during recess as well, an administrator said.

The reveal also allayed long-held fears about the Dock Street space itself, which some had dismissed as an inferior facility developer Two Trees had tacked on to its building to sweeten a rezoning deal.

Internal documents revealed the School Construction Authority’s own architect had trashed early designs for the site, noting the gym failed to meet city standards with its below-grade 15-foot ceilings. But a spokesman for Berlin Rosen — which also represents Two Trees — said the height of the so-called “gymtorium” — a hybrid gym and auditorium — has since doubled, and kids will have to throw their basketball 30 feet in the air to hit the rafters.

The school will be open to any tween in the local school district — which also encompasses Downtown, Fort Greene, and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Park Slope — when it opens in the fall.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill.
For playing ball and plays: The new space will also include a so-called “gymtorium,” which will be much taller than a widely panned one previously planned.