Slope parents celebrate school opening after their dreams were dashed by redistricting

Slope parents celebrate school opening after their dreams were dashed by redistricting
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A new Park Slope elementary school opened this month, just in time to take in kids cut out of two prestigious neighborhood schools by a controversial redistricting.

Parents said the opening of PS 118 on Eighth Street at Fourth Avenue is a testament to their efforts after they failed to stop last year’s rezoning of District 15, which dashed their hopes of filling coveted seats in PS 321 and PS 107 with their children. Now, with classes under way and the new school officially christened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, PS 118 backers say that the education there is so good, they do not feel like they are missing out on anything.

“We’re very enthusiastic,” said Park Slope dad Matt Didner, whose 4-year-old daughter Natalie started pre-kindergarten at the school in the former St. Thomas Aquinas building two weeks ago. “Because of the small nature of the school, the children are going to be given more individual attention.”

Didner was one of many parents who had their hearts set on one of the two prized schools but, once neighborhood education officials approved the redistricting last November, turned their efforts towards supporting the new school. PS 118 already has 86 kids enrolled in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, according to the school’s principal.

“It feels like the school has been around for a while,” principal Elizabeth Garraway said. “The teachers are really teaching, the kids are learning, and people are collaborating.”

Garraway worked as an assistant principal at the sought-after PS 321 for the past eight years. At her new job, she said she had a tough time getting parents to accept the reality of redistricting.

“It was a rocky start,” she said. “Parents were apprehensive — they wanted PS 321.”

PS 118 incorporates Spanish into every subject and will add two classes each year, ultimately housing 300-plus students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, according to Garraway.

Parents and school officials named the institution the Maurice Sendak Community School in honor of the late, Bensonhurst-born children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who is best known for the book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
School’s in session: City officials, school staff, and parents celebrated the recent opening of Park Slope’s PS 118, the Maurice Sendak Community School with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 21.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini