City education officials unveiled two ambitious schemes to desegregate elementary schools in Brownstone Brooklyn by reshaping the area’s admissions process, according to a local civic guru.
“We find ourselves at a turning point…This is a moment where we can really step forward,” said Camille Casaretti, head of the Community Education Council at School District 15. “Both of the proposals that are on the table offer a level of equity that doesn’t exist in many schools throughout the city.”
The two proposals would alter the enrollment criteria for seven elementary schools in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, and Red Hook — located within District 15, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has singled as a testing ground for new desegregation policies.
The first plan would dramatically change the zoning map for the schools — shrinking zoning for sought-after schools, and expanding the designated area for schools with low-attendance.
PS 15 in Red Hook and PS 32 in Gowanus would see the largest increases in coverage area — mostly engulfing students from Carroll Gardens, where zoning for PS 58 would be shrunk more than any other school.
The second proposal would throw out the zoning map altogether, and enroll students to the seven schools using a randomized lottery system.
The raffle-based plan mirrors a similar scheme that the Department of Education has already implemented across all middle schools in District 15 — which also encompasses Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, and Sunset Park — where students list their school preferences before being enrolled through a lottery system.
“In District 15, we’ve already launched a middle school diversity plan,” said department rep Max Familian. “Seventy-eight percent of students receive an offer to one of their top three schools.”
If the zoning maps are eliminated, the Department of Education would requisition additional buses to accommodate students who find themselves enrolled in far-flung schools, according to Familian.
Under both schemes, 25 to 35 percent of seats in each school would be reserved for homeless students, non-native speakers, or children eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Currently, the challenge of serving underprivileged or non-native students is unequally shared between the seven schools, only 11 percent of students meeting that criteria at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, while nearly 100 percent of students do at PS 676 in Red Hook, according to Familian.
“In this area, there’s a disparity across the seven schools across the district,” he said. “We’re looking to use rezoning and admissions changes to address these disparities between the schools.”
Students who are currently enrolled in a school would not be forced to transfer if their zoning changes, according to Familian, who also noted that children could be admitted to the same schools as their older siblings — regardless of possible future zoning changes — in an effort to keep families together.
Department of Education reps had previously hoped to finalize the rezoning plan for the 2020 school year, but multiple sources suggested that timeline could be pushed back.