White parents living in Dumbo may be choosing to send their kindergartners to schools other than the newly zoned and mostly minority PS 307 in Vinegar Hill despite a controversial rezoning that many heralded as a crucial step towards integration, and a school leader is questioning whether the newcomers are avoiding it because of its racial makeup.
“My fear is that despite the rezoning, white parents aren’t going to come to this school because of its demographics,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones, a former Parent-Teacher Association co-president whose daughter attends the school.
The Department of Education expanded PS 307’s zone — which previously only included the Farragut Houses — to also include kids from Dumbo in order to ease overcrowding at mostly white PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights after dozens of youngsters were put on the wait list for that school last year.
Neighborhood demographics for PS 8 from have not been released by the city despite repeated requests by this paper, and it is unclear how many kindergartners children living in Dumbo went to that school last year.
Education officials predicted that the amount of minorities attending school at PS 307 would drop from 90 percent to around 55 to 60 percent over several years, without specifying how many years it would take.
Some touted the integration of the school as a milestone for school desegregation, with local pols and some members of the district Community Education Council arguing the rezoning would finally bring white and black children together in a city where many schools are heavily segregated.
And Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) dramatically voiced his support, saying it would “allow all of our children the opportunity to learn and grow together.”
But in its first year, the school’s racial makeup has remained roughly the same, with fewer than 10 white kids enrolling in kindergarten — the same figure as last fall, according to education department data, which does not give the exact amount, and could be as few as one or zero.
One goal of the plan has been met, as there was no wait list at PS 8 this year.
Hannah-Jones said he didn’t expect to see much difference in the skin color of children walking the school’s hallways right away and thinks it will be become more visible once Dumbo becomes more built up and more yuppy families move into the area.
“There’s not really been much of any change since the rezoning vote and we’re probably not going to see any changes for the next couple years,” he said.
An education department spokesman echoed this observation and said that the impact won’t be seen for “several years.”
Figures show more kids from inside the zone are now attending PS 307, a magnet school that receives federal money for math and science programs that has traditionally catered to youngsters from across the city. Last year just 18 of its 69 kindergartners were from inside the zone. However, 31 of this year’s incoming kindergarten class is from inside the zone, according education department data.
The statistics the city releases do not say where inside the zone the kids live, but the uptick could have been a result of it expanding to include the rest of the Farragut Houses. Previously, three of the buildings in the development were zoned for PS 8.