Surprise finding: City didn’t tell us about middle school’s science revamp, say parents

TOMORROW: Learn more about the MS 313 relocation
Photo by Louise Wateridge

The city blinded them with science!

A Vinegar Hill middle school will relocate to Dumbo and adopt a science-savvy curriculum next fall, officials announced last Thursday, but parents say the city picked the institution’s new focus without running it by the community.

“The process was supposed to involve community input and there was a considerable amount of effort put in by the community education council and parents,” said Maggie Spillane, who has kids in the same school district and is a member of Community Education Council 13, an advisory panel of parents. “But it seemed to be pretty obvious it was decided before.”

Schools czar Carmen Farina announced during a meeting to vote on relocating MS 313 in Vinegar Hill to a new building at the corner of Water and Dock streets — a move that a city panel unanimously approved — that the newly situated school would also be overhauled with a special focus on science, technology, engineering, and math subjects, emulating another school elsewhere.

“We have designated that school to be a STEM science-focused school,” she said. “This school is going to be a replication of another school that has a very strong STEM program.”

The Department of Education is already in the process of hiring a consultant who specializes in designing such schools, Farina said.

Spillane and other parents say the news came as a shock, as the department had previously promised to consult with families about the school’s new direction. It held three open forums on the reboot this month, but attendees say the science and technology makeover was not mentioned. A fourth planned forum hasn’t even taken place yet.

Many parents in the district — which also includes Downtown, Fort Greene, and parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Park Slope — were already angry over the city’s lack of communication about the school’s relocation in the first place.

The department had previously indicated it was going to build a whole new middle school at the 300-seat Dumbo facility, only to abruptly announce in September that it would instead simply relocate MS 313 — in part to make room for another contentious plan to dramatically expand the area served by PS 307, where the 86-student middle school is currently sharing space.

Some parents at the time said they were hoping for a new facility that would cater to high-achieving tweens in the district, and won’t send their kids to MS 313 — which is on the city’s list of “persistently dangerous” schools due to reports of violence — even with a new name and new building.

The final forum on the future of MS 313 will take place on Nov. 30 at PS 11 in Fort Greene.

MS 313 and District 13 middle-school forum at PS 11 (419 Waverly Ave. between Greene and Gates avenues in Fort Greene). Nov. 30 at 6:30 pm.

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