New school planned for Coney Island Avenue

After dragging its feet, the city is finally fulfilling an old promise to build a new school in Flatbush.

A year after its last capital plan expired, the Department of Education has proposed a new 735-seat primary/intermediate school for a vacant lot on Coney Island Avenue, between Hinckley and Turner places. The school — which would be located in School District 22 — was originally included in the agency’s 2005-2009 capital plan to address overcrowding at area schools, but is just now moving forward.

Even if the approval process is smooth, the school would not be ready to receive students for another three to five years, said Christopher Spinelli, the president of the district’s Community Education Council.

And don’t count on it accommodating students in kindergarten through eighth grade, even though it’s now being billed as a PS/IS.

“By the time it’s ready to come on line, the need will have to be reevaluated,” said Spinelli, who said that exactly what kind of school it is going to be is up in the air.

“We haven’t had any discussion about that yet,” he stressed.

The school could help relieve overcrowding at some nearby schools, such as PS 217, at Coney Island Avenue and Newkirk Avenue, Spinelli said, as well as enable students who might otherwise have had to be bused across the district to walk to school.

But, he added, overcrowding isn’t the same major issue in the northern end of the district that it had been when the new school was put into the capital plan, thanks to changing demographics, some new schools that have opened — such as Brooklyn Dreams charter school in the old St. Rose of Lima school building at Parkville Avenue — and recent alterations in school zones that will take effect during the next school year.

Nonetheless, Spinelli stressed, the new school could help reduce class size. “I don’t think the CEC is ever going to say, don’t build the school. There is always a need for smaller schools and smaller class sizes,” he said.

In addition, Spinelli emphasized, there are economic realities. “You better build while you can, because you don’t know what the next capital plan is going to bring,” he said.

The location is a great one not only for the benefit to area students but because it could be a catalyst for change along Coney Island Avenue, said Liena Zagare, who runs the Ditmas Park Blog, and who has been involved in efforts to rethink the strip that were launched earlier this year by the Church Avenue Business Improvement District.

“Having a school there would be totally awesome,” said Zagare. “It would bring both sides of Coney Island Avenue together.” It would also relieve pressure on other area schools, she added. “If you live around here, the chances of going to school within walking distance are slim. It’s a great opportunity to have another school that may be a little different from the schools we have now.”

Community Board 12 public hearing on the school site [The Amico Senior Center, third floor, 5901 13th Ave. (718) 851-0800], Nov. 23 at 6 pm.