Parents: City’s quota not enough to save PS 307 from yuppie invasion

Tonight: Have your say on PS 8, PS 307 school rezoning
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is the sum of all their fears.

The city’s plan for ensuring a school that currently serves mostly minority, low-income kids in Vinegar Hill is not over-run by rich white students when it expands to include youngsters from Dumbo next year just doesn’t add up, say parents.

“We don’t agree with it,” said Faraji Hannah-Jones, co-president of the parent-teacher association at PS 307 at a meeting on Monday night where education officials unveiled their final plan to redraw the school’s boundaries to encompass Dumbo. “You’re not doing the math.”

Families at the York Street school — which is currently zoned mostly for kids in Vinegar Hill’s Farragut public housing project — are demanding the education department set aside half the institution’s seats for low-income students if it goes ahead with its rezoning plan, in order to preserve the school’s current community and access to federal funding.

The city says it will give priority for half of the seats to low-income kids living within the new school zone, but it will also give priority for any kid who resides in the zone over those from outside of it.

That won’t result in a balanced mix, Hannah-Jones said, because low-income kids make up a small portion of the area, while Dumbo — one of the richest neighborhoods in the city — is booming. The school has 423 pupils right now — some of whom come from outside the zone as part of a magnet program and 85 percent of whom are low-income — and is projected to eventually grow to 770 after it expands.

Instead, the city should allow low-income kids in other parts of the school district — which also encompasses Downtown, Fort Greene, and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Park Slope — to make up a guaranteed 50 percent, he said.

Border force: The proposed new borders of the PS 8 and PS 307 school zones.
Department of Education

“It’s not 50 percent with conditions, it’s 50 percent period,” he said. “We want the opportunity to sustain our equity for the neighborhood.”

The school currently receives federal funds for having so many low-income students, but it would lose that money if the percentage drops below 60 percent. Education officials say they are willing to keep working with families and the local school board to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“Nothing is set in stone but if that’s something people want, we can work with the community education council and people in school communities to see if we could make that happen,” said department spokesperson Meg Barboza.

But the quota announced Monday is the result of almost two months of discussions between officials and families, and a decision on the rezoning must be made soon.

The department announced its plan to redraw the borders in September — originally as a way to reduce overcrowding at the popular and majority white PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights, where Dumbo kids currently attend.

But PS 307 families fought back — arguing the city was rushing into the scheme without considering how a sudden influx of newcomers would affect their school, which had until now served a small student body drawn largely from the surrounding streets — and officials ultimately pushed back a final decision to give families more time to respond.

The community education council — a voluntary panel of parents from the district — will now vote on the rezoning some time in the next 45 days. If it rejects the plan, the schools’ borders will remain the same for now. If it okays the scheme, PS 307 will begin accepting kindergarten and pre-kindergarten applications from parents in the new boundaries for the 2016 school year.

Work to be done: PS 307 Parent Teacher Association co-president Faraji Hannah-Jones expresses his concerns over the city’s rezoning plan at the Community Education Council 13 meeting on Nov. 23.
Community News Group / Lauren Gill

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511.