PS 8 gets a middle school: City okays beloved Heights elementary’s expansion

PS 8 parents demand a middle school in the Heights
Community Newspaper Group / Laura Gottesdiener

The beloved Brooklyn Heights elementary school PS 8 will open a much-desired middle school several blocks away — pleasing neighborhood parents who have long urged the city to expand the popular school.

A Department of Education panel voted unanimously on Thursday to approve plans to open a middle school inside a building shared by George Westinghouse Information and Technology High School and City Polytechnic High School on Johnson Street in Downtown.

“PS 8 is a place that our children already know and love,” said Cristina Soto, co-president of PS 8’s PTA. “Having them continue in that nurturing environment is a relief.”

The new school will house sixth graders this fall and accommodate nearly 300 students by 2014. PS 8’s K–5 program will remain at its Hicks Street location.

Before its recent resurgence, PS 8 had struggled for years. But after principal Seth Phillips arrived in 2003, the school surged in popularity, attracting so many students that the city was forced to terminate its middle school in 2004 and build a three-story annex just to fit its 600 elementary school kids.

The Westinghouse building is only filled to 79 percent capacity and it would swell to 90 percent capacity with the PS 8 expansion, according to the Department of Education.

Few parents and teachers have opposed the middle school since the city proposed it in December.

But during a high-tension vote on numerous school changes and closures at Brooklyn Technical HS on Fort Greene Place — which quickly filled with protests by parents and the United Federation of Teachers — one parent who said she was a PTA member at George Westinghouse demanded that Brooklyn Heights’s elementary school darling move into an under-capacity middle school instead.

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