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Wait-list is back at PS 8 — just a year after controversial rezoning

Packed in at PS 8: Dismissal time at over-crowded PS 8 is hectic.
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Brooklyn Heights’ PS 8 once again has a waiting list for next year’s kindergarten class, despite a controversial rezoning that drastically reduced the area served by the popular elementary school last year.

Parents had hoped the change would stave off overcrowding for at least a few more years, but the city’s hot fix hasn’t weathered the rapid influx of families to the area, according to a local leader.

“It was a band-aid — a patch,” said Community Education Council 13 president David Goldsmith, whose daughter attended PS 8. “Everyone is grappling with the fact that building in Downtown is outrageous and the amount of residential housing in exploding, and that whatever gain PS 8 got was just really temporary.”

The school had its first wait-list-free year in a long while in 2016 after the city cut the area its serves by roughly half, rolling Dumbo and Vinegar Hill into the PS 307 school zone — a move that outraged many prospective PS 8 parents who’d planned on sending their offspring to the Hicks Street school, as well as those at PS 307 who worry that a rush of rich white pupils will dramatically change a school that largely serves minority students.

But the relief was short-lived — this year it has yet again had to relegate 22 pint-sized pupils to purgatory, and they’ll only be eligible to attend if some of the 165 students offered spots elect to seek their schooling elsewhere.

A Department of Education rep attributes the increase to 18 out-of-zone kids who are being grandfathered into the school because they already had older siblings there before the borders changed — and he’s confident things will ease off in the coming years once all of those families pass through the system.

“The number of siblings receiving this priority will decrease in coming years,” said spokesman Will Mantel.

But Goldsmith thinks things will actually get worse due to Downtown development. And even if the city decides to throw money at the problem and erect a whole new elementary school, he said, the benefits wouldn’t be felt for years, so some more immediate solutions are still needed.

“Even if there was a pot of money and they could buy the land and build the buildings, we wouldn’t see these new school buildings for six, seven, or even eight years, so we have to look at this in terms of short-, medium-, and long-term solutions,” he said.

Goldsmith is hopeful those plans are already afoot, however — district Superintendent Barbara Freeman and the city already working to find some short-term solutions, including school co-locations and selling parents on the merits of other schools in the district with more seats, he says.

And it won’t involve blind-siding families with a pre-approved plan like the recent rezoning, he pledged.

“We’re done with the old way of getting things done,” Goldsmith said. “We’re going to have an open process and the planners are going to have discussions way before making proposals.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 11:18 am, March 13, 2017: Updated to clarify enrollment data.
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Reasonable discourse

AnonyMom from Brooklyn Heights says:
You have a couple of innacuracies in your piece. First, there was a re-zoning, not a re-districting. PS8 and PS307 both remain in District 13. The zone lines for both schools were re-drawn. Thisnis not hair-splitting. In this case semantics matter because of the verbiage the DOE uses, zone and district mean entirely different things. They are not interchangable. Incoming K families and readers need to understand the diggerence. There are 30 NYC DOE school districts each with their own groups of schools.

Second, grandfathered siblings are from the older larger zone that includes Dumbo. They receive zoned-sibling priority for PS8 just like siblings of current students who live in the new smaller PS8 zone. They would never be placed on the wait list. That's the whole point of grandfathering. The children on the waitlist are non-sibling zoned students from within the new smaller PS8 zone. Here too the use of "district" is problematic. It implies students from outside D13 are on the Capped Zoned Waitlist which is a list for children who live in-zone only. Meaning, in zone children are assigned a place on the waitlist by DOE lottery and it is administered by the school in order. The school does not have the ability to change the order of the wait list.

That number also stays with the student if they don't receive a seat in their zoned school for Kindergarten. If/when a space opens up in first grade the following year, that number is their priority for seats as they become available.
March 13, 2017, 3:55 am
Older from Brooklyn Heights says:
Do you have a cite for that 1st grade piece? I heard that 2 years ago during that wait list, and it's resurfaced now -- but I've never seen the rule that makes it clear, and I've gotten pushback from some DOEers that it's true.
March 13, 2017, 10:32 am
AnonyMom from Brooklyn Heights says:
My understanding of the Zoned Capped Waitlist is from a 2016 blog post by NYC School Help consultant Joyce Szuflita. http://www.nycschoolhelp.com/blog/2016/3/16/tale-of-two-waitlists
March 13, 2017, 11:40 am

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