DOE delays zoning scheme for Brownstone Brooklyn elementary schools

PS 32, which is building an entirely new school building, would see its zoning map greatly expanded under one proposal.
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City education bigwigs announced a yearlong delay of their ambitious scheme to desegregate elementary schools in Brownstone Brooklyn on Tuesday, saying they needed more time for community input, according to the local school district’s Superintendent.

“[We] elected not to submit a proposal for 2020 and 2021 implementation…to provide more time to hear from as many voices as possible, and empower communities in the process,” said Anita Skop.

The Department of Education had originally planned to vote on their schemes in November, with implementation affecting children entering kindergarten in 2020. Now, Brooklyn youth entering kindergarten in 2021 will be affected.

In an effort to foster integration among Kings County schools, the two proposals would alter the enrollment criteria for seven elementary schools in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, and Red Hook — which comprises a subset of the notoriously segregated School District 15.

The first proposals would dramatically alter the zoning lines for the seven schools — shrinking the geographic area designated for high-attendance schools, while expanding the area for under-utilized ones.

The second proposal would get rid of zoning lines altogether, opting instead for a randomized lottery system across the schools.

After hearing from upset locals who were unaware of the prospective changes, department officials opted to punt on voting on either measure.

“What we really heard was that there were people who didn’t know what was going on, and we want to try very hard to get out and reach them,” said Skop.

Members of District 15’s Community Education Council — a volunteer advisory group overseeing the district — praised the decision, along with community leaders who had pushed DOE to extend the timeline.

“We’re going to do this right, we’re not going to check a box,” said Francisca Montaña, the Borough President appointee to the council. “We are going to pay a debt that we have to certain communities. I am really happy.”

Edwin Pacheco, a pastor at Redemption Church in Red Hook similarly lauded the departments decision and said he felt his community was being listened to.

“Hearing this today was kind of a win for us,” he said. “They’re hearing the community, they’re responding to it. Even if we engage and we’re back at the drawing board, at least we’ve done our due diligence and extended every possible option.”

However, not everyone was pleased with the Department’s decision — including the education council’s former president, who called on education bigwigs to push forward despite the lack of clear consensus.

“I’m disappointed that you’re not going forward,” said Jim Devor. “I appreciate that you may not reach a consensus, but I don’t believe you can ever reach a consensus entirely.”

Reach reporter Ben Verde at (718) 260–2525 or by e-mail at bverde@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @verde_nyc.
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