Packed in at PS 8: Bklyn Heights school so crowded that the city killed pre-K

Packed in at PS 8: Bklyn Heights school so crowded that the city killed pre-K
Photo by Jason Speakman

A Brooklyn Heights elementary school is feeling the squeeze of area development, and it is only going to get more packed, parents say.

PS 8, on Hicks Street between Poplar and Middagh streets is over-capacity, has had to cut its prekindergarten program, and is in danger of losing its art and music rooms next year. The school’s parent-teacher association is raising the alarm over the need for more classrooms as new residential developments bring in even more students.

“The problem is bad, and it’s getting worse,” said Ansley Samson, co-president of the PS 8 Parents and Teachers Association.

The school has 28 classrooms and 703 students this year, which is 254 more students than the School Construction Authority recommends, according to a report that agency issued last year.

The parent-teacher group said that the number of classes in each grade has been steadily increasing each year, with three fifth-grade classes set to graduate, and six kindergarten classes ready to move on to first grade. And with 30 more kindergartners already pre-registered for next year than this year, the schoolhouse is set to get further stuffed to the gills.

In the past, classes have been folded together, but if the school needs space for as many students as the current pre-registration suggests while accounting for the smaller graduating class, that alone will not be enough to accommodate all the kids.

“I don’t see a world where we don’t lose our music room next year,” Samson said.

This would not be the first time that happened. The school was without a music room last year, but got it back after the city canceled the two prekindergarten classes that were housed in the school, opening up more space.

The school’s other parent-teacher president, Kim Glickman, wonders how canceling prekindergarten classes washes with Mayor DeBlasio’s plan to get every kid in the city enrolled in such a program.

“It seems a little ironic given Mayor DeBlasio’s push for universal pre-K,” she said.

Parents say that there is little to be done for next school year. Instead, they are looking to the following year, and asking the Department of Education for a long-term solution.

“As parents all we can do is raise the issue,” Glickman said.

The city increased capacity at PS 8 in 2011 with an annex that added seven classrooms, but those have all been filled. Samson and Glickman acknowledge that overcrowding is a citywide issue and is not limited to PS 8. They submitted testimony at a Council hearing about the issue last week. But the construction of new housing in Dumbo, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Brooklyn Heights will hasten the situation in their neighborhood.

“It’s a big problem, and a problem across the city,” Samson said. “But a part of the issue in our district is how fast the problem is growing.”

The Department of Education has plans for 1,090 new school seats in PS 8’s district over the next five years, which could be either elementary or middle-school seats.

The city also estimates that by 2021, 7,547 new apartments will have been built in the district since PS 8’s annex was added. Using the city’s own formula, that would require around twice as many seats as it has in the pipeline.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
The crowds: There are already 254 more students at Brooklyn Heights’ PS 8 than the education department recommends.
Photo by Jason Speakman